Thomas Jefferson Papers
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IV. Revised Report of the Committee, 22 March 1784

IV. Revised Report of the Committee, 22 Mch. 1784

The Committee to whom was recommitted the report of a plan for a temporary government of the Western territory have agreed to the following resolutions.

Resolved that so much of the territory ceded or to be ceded by individual states to the United states, as is already purchased1 or shall be purchased of the Indian inhabitants and offered for sale by Congress, shall be divided2 into distinct states,3 in the following manner, as nearly as such cessions will admit; that is to say, by parallels of latitude, so that each state shall comprehend from South to North4 two degrees of latitude beginning to count from the completion of thirty one5 degrees North of the equator; and by meridians of longitude, one of which shall pass thro’ the lowest point of the rapids of Ohio, and the other thro’ the Western cape of the mouth of the Great Kanhaway. But the territory Eastward of this last meridian, between the Ohio, lake Erie, and Pensylvania shall be one state whatsoever may be it’s comprehension of latitude. That which may lie beyond the completion of the 45th. degree between the said meridians shall make part of the state adjoining it on the South, and that part of the Ohio which is between the same meridians coinciding nearly with the parallel of 39°. shall be substituted so far in lieu of that parallel as a boundary line.6

That the settlers on any territory7 so purchased and offered for sale shall, either on their own petition, or on the order of Congress, receive authority from them with appointments of time and place, for their free males of full age, within the limits of their state to meet together for the purpose of establishing a temporary government, to adopt the constitution and laws of any one of the original states,8 so that such laws nevertheless shall be subject to alteration by their ordinary legislature; and to erect, subject to a like alteration, counties or townships9 for the election of members for their legislature.10

That such temporary government shall only continue in force in any state until it shall have acquired 20,000 free inhabitants; when11 giving due proof thereof to Congress, they shall receive from them authority, with appointments of time and place to call a convention of representatives to establish a permanent constitution and government for themselves.

Provided that both the temporary and permanent governments be established on these principles as their basis.12 1. That they shall for ever remain a part of this confederacy of the United states of America. 2. That in their persons, property and territory13 they shall be subject to the government of the United states in Congress assembled, and14 to the articles of Confederation in all those cases in which the original states shall be so subject.15 3.16 That they shall be subject to pay a part of the federal debts contracted or to be contracted, to be apportioned on them by Congress, according to the same common rule and measure, by which apportionments thereof shall be made on the other states. 4.17 That their respective governments shall be in18 republican forms, and shall admit no person to be a citizen who holds any hereditary title.19 5. That after the year 1800. of the Christian æra, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said states, otherwise than in punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been20 convicted to have been personally guilty.21

That whensoever any of the said states shall have, of free inhabitants, as many as shall then be in any one the least numerous of the thirteen original states, such state22 shall be admitted by it’s delegates into the Congress of the United states, on an equal footing with the said original states: provided nine states agree to such admission according to the reservation of the 11th of the articles of Confederation.23 And in order to adapt24 the said articles of confederation to the state of Congress when it’s numbers shall be thus increased, it shall be proposed to the legislatures of the states originally parties thereto, to require the assent of two thirds of the United states in Congress assembled in all those cases wherein by the said articles the assent of nine states is now required; which being agreed to by them shall be binding on the new states. Until such admission by their delegates into Congress, any of the said states, after the establishment of their temporary government, shall have authority to keep a sitting25 member in Congress, with a right of debating, but not of voting.26

That the preceding articles shall be formed into a charter of compact, shall be duly executed by the president of the United states in Congress assembled, under his hand, and the seal of the United states, shall be promulgated, and shall stand as fundamental constitutions between the thirteen original states and each of the several states now newly described, unalterable27 but by the joint consent of the United states in Congress assembled, and of the particular state within which such alteration is proposed to be made.28

MS (DLC: PCC, No. 30, p. 55–7); entirely in TJ’s hand, with a few alterations, all of which are described below; endorsed in Thomson’s hand: “Report on Western territory Delivered 22 March 1784. read. Wednesday 24 Assigned for Consideration.” A broadside printed text, corresponding exactly with the revised MS report as delivered (except in two typographical instances noted below), was made from the same type employed in producing the printed text of the original report (see notes to Document iii), the amendments to that report made in Congress and the alterations in phraseology made by TJ in preparing the revision being incorporated in the standing type. Most of these changes were deletions, such as the elimination of the five paragraphs of named states, but some were additions. The official copy of this printed text is in PCC, No. 30, p. 53, to which a MS amendment in TJ’s hand at p. 57 ½ belongs (see note 26, below). On the broadside, in the hand of Chase, are recorded the amendments proposed and adopted in Congress during the course of debate; it is endorsed in the hand of Thomson: “Report of Mr Jefferson Mr Chase Mr Howell on Western territory. Delivered 1. March 1784. Passed April 23. 1784.” In JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 275–9, there is what is stated to be TJ’s MS report as adopted with all amendments on 23 Apr. 1784; actually the text there employed is a combination of the MS and “alterations made during the debate” as recorded by Chase on the broadside; some of the differences between the two are indicated, but not all, with the result that deletions in the printed text as made by Congress are confusingly presented as deletions made in the MS report submitted by TJ. A more accurate description of this broadside is given in JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvii, 719, No. 427.

In addition to the official copy of this printed text, three others with marginal corrections have been found. (1) The first of these is reproduced in facsimile by Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed.,The Writings of Thomas Jefferson,“Letterpress Edition,” N.Y., 1892–1899 description ends iii, facing p. 428, but has not been found. It includes deletions, interlineations, and marginal additions in TJ’s hand representing the amended resolutions as adopted by Congress; at the bottom of the broadside is the following in TJ’s hand: “Apr. 23. 1784. Passed in Congress by the votes of ten states out of eleven present.” There are indications in the handwriting and in one or two deletions noted below that the amendments were entered by TJ during the course of debate, for the handwriting is TJ’s “rough” hand, not the formal, regular hand employed in the MS of the revised report or in the third copy of this broadside. It is obvious, as the notation on the Jefferson broadside shows, that TJ must have sent that copy to someone to show what Congress had adopted. Since the Va. Gaz. description begins Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg, 1751–1780, and Richmond, 1780–1781). Abbreviations for publishers of the several newspapers of this name, frequently published concurrently, include the following: C & D (Clarkson & Davis), D & H (Dixon & Hunter), D & N (Dixon & Nicolson), P & D (Purdie & Dixon). In all other cases the publisher’s name is not abbreviated description ends (N & P) of 15 May 1784 printed the text of the Ordinance of 1784, under an Annapolis date line of 6 May, it may be that the Jefferson broadside was the one sent to Madison on 25 Apr. 1784 or possibly to Joseph Jones on the same date. (2) The second copy of the broadside bears the same deletions, interlineations, and marginal additions as the first (and are in TJ’s hand), but the deletions are made by carefully drawn double rules and the handwriting is precise and regular. This copy was enclosed in TJ’s letter to Hogendorp, 4 May 1784, as in the form “ultimately passed by Congress”; it is in the Hogendorp papers, Rijksarchief, The Hague, Holland. (3) The third is in PPHi and bears, in an unidentified hand, the same deletions, interlineations, and marginal additions as the first and second. Since it has no significant differences, this broadside is disregarded in the notes below.

The official broadside in PCC, No. 30, p. 53, the facsimile reproduced in Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed.,The Writings of Thomas Jefferson,“Letterpress Edition,” N.Y., 1892–1899 description ends III, facing p. 428, and the broadside sent to Hogendorp are referred to in the notes below as OB (official broadside), JB (Jefferson broadside), and HB (Hogendorp broadside), respectively. The phraseology of the amendments indicated in notes below is that recorded by Chase on OB; unless otherwise noted, the amendments as recorded on HB and JB agree with this phraseology.

1Preceding four words interlined in MS and not included in the alteration described in note 2, Document iii.

2This word interlined in MS in substitution for “formed,” deleted.

3The word “bounded” is deleted in MS at this point.

4This phrase altered in OB to read “from north to South.”

5Altered in OB to read: “forty five.”

6TJ first wrote this sentence so as to conform precisely to the phraseology quoted in note 9, Document III, except for substituting “beyond” for “Northward of.” Then, on the MS, he altered this by deletion and interlineation to read: “That which may lie under the 41st. and 40th degrees <of latitude> between the meridians shall extend in every part [to the Ohio] as its Southern boundary whatever may be it’s latitude <and no further>, and that which may lie between the same meridians beyond the completion of the 45th. degree shall make part of the state adjoining on the South.” Being still dissatisfied with this, TJ, on a separate slip of paper, wrote the passage as it appears above and wafered it to the first page of MS over the passage for which it was substituted. This slip has now been removed from the MS, but the wafers obscure the conjectured reading in square brackets.

7The words “which may have been” are deleted in MS at this point (see note 10, Document iii).

8The passage “either on their own petition … of the original states” is bracketed and underscored in OB, but not in JB or HB. On 21 Apr. Gerry moved, seconded by TJ, that all of the first part of this clause down to and including the words “full age” be struck out and the following substituted: “That on the petition of the settlers on any territory so purchased of the Indians, or otherwise obtained and sold to individuals, or on the order of Congress, authority may be given by Congress with appointment of time and place, for all free males of full age, being residents of the United States, and owning lands or residing” (within the limits of their state, &c.). But only four states supported this motion and it failed (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 255–6).

9This phrase altered in OB by deleting “or” and interlining “or other Divisions” after the word “townships.”

10The passage “and to erect … for their legislature” is underscored in OB, indicating that an amendment was offered in Congress, but no corresponding markings appear in JB or HB and there is no reference to such an attempted amendment in JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends .

11The passage “such temporary government … inhabitants; when” is deleted in OB and the following interlined in substitution: “when any such State shall have acquired 20,000 free inhabitants on.”

12On 20 Apr. Williamson moved to strike out the words “temporary and”; but Read of South Carolina was the only one of twenty-four delegates present to join him in supporting this motion (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 249–50). In the following sentence, the words “this confederacy” are not in the original report (Document iii) and are not recorded there as among the amendments offered in Congress, which suggests that TJ inserted the words in MS in preparing the revised report. 13 Preceding six words deleted in OB; this was done before 20 Apr. 1784 (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 248).

13Preceding six words deleted in OB; this was done before 20 Apr. 1784 (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi 248.

14Preceding eleven words deleted in OB. This amendment was offered by Sherman on 20 Apr.; TJ voted in favor of it (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 248–9).

15At this point in OB there is the symbol # and in the margin a corresponding symbol followed by: “2d Article—and to all the Acts and Ordinances of the US in Congress assembled conformable thereto.” The amendment as recorded in the margin of JB differs slightly: “and to all the acts and ordinances of Congress made conformable thereto.” This difference supports the conjecture that TJ entered the notations on JB during Congress’ debates and that in this as in another instance (note 16) copied an earlier form of an amendment and not the words as finally approved by Congress, despite his statement at the bottom of JB: “23 Apr. 1784 Passed in Congress. …” HB and the text from the Journals of Congress (Document v) both agree with the wording as given in the margin of OB.

16This number changed to “4” by overwriting in all three broadsides. In the margin of OB is the following: “3d. That they in no Case interfere with the primary Disposal of the said Lands by the US in Congress assembled.” This was then deleted and the following written below it: “3d Article [Th]at they in no Case shall [inter]fere with the primary Disposal of the Soil by the US in Congress nor with the Ordinances and Regulations which Congress may find necessary for securing the Title in such Soil to the bona fide purchasers.” In the margin of JB the word “soil” is interlined in substitution for the deleted words “said lands”; this corresponds to the change made in OB. But in JB the word “assembled” is struck out after the first use of “Congress” and in the revised amendment in OB the word does not appear. It does appear, however, in HB and also in the text as finally adopted (Document v). This difference again supports the view that TJ entered amendments on JB during debates in Congress.

17This number, not discernible in OB owing to mutilation, was changed by overwriting in JB and HB to “6” and then to “7.”

18This word deleted in OB, obviously as part of the amendment which involved also deletion of the word “forms.” This amendment had already been made by 20 Apr. when the amendment described in note 19 was proposed (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 250).

19Preceding fifteen words deleted in OB. This amendment was made on 20 Apr. (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 250–1). TJ reported that this was not because Congress entertained “an approbation of such honours, but because it was thought an improper place to encounter them” (TJ to Madison, 25 Apr. 1784).

At the bottom of OB is the following: “5th Article. That no Tax shall be imposed on Lands the property of the US.” And immediately following the end of the paragraph is the amendment that became the seventh section: “That the Lands of Non Resident proprietors shall in no case be taxed higher than those of Residents within any new state before the admission thereof to a vote by its delegates in Congress.” This amendment was inserted in margin of JB after the amendment described in note 23 had been adopted, as is proved both by its position on the page in OB and by the exceedingly crowded lines in JB, obviously squeezed in between passages already existing above and below. As originally proposed by Gerry and seconded by TJ, this amendment read: “That the lands and improvements thereon of non-resident proprietors,” &c. Howell moved to delete the words “and improvements thereon”; TJ voted against this amendment to the amendment, but only six states could be mustered against it, so the question was lost and the words deleted. Howell then tried another amendment to the amendment—that the words “before the admission thereof to a vote by its delegates in Congress” be struck out, but this failed (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 257–9).

20The word “duly” is deleted in MS at this point, though not indicated as an amendment in the alterations recorded in the printed text of Document iii; hence probably deleted by TJ in preparing the revised report.

21All of section 5 was deleted by amendment in Congress and each of the broadsides shows the passage marked out. The motion to delete was made on 19 Apr. 1784 by Spaight of North Carolina and seconded by Read of South Carolina. Every delegate including and north of Pennsylvania voted for TJ’s clause excluding slavery; Jefferson and Williamson were the only delegates southward of that state to vote with them. The lack of the vote of a single delegate determined the outcome; Beatty of New Jersey was ill (see TJ to Madison, 25 Apr. 1784). Sixteen delegates voted to retain the clause, whereas only seven voted to delete it; but the former represented only six states and the latter three. Thus a minority of states and of delegates’ votes determined the issue, for on the question as to whether the words moved to be struck out should stand, the required seven states could not be mustered, the question was lost, and the words were deleted (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 247).

On the question of the exclusion of slavery, see Edward Coles, History of the Ordinance of 1787 (Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1856); the Society also has, in the Robins Collection, Edward Coles’ correspondence with Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, Henry S. Randall, Charles Sumner, and others concerning this and other matters (photocopies are in TJ Editorial Files). The reply of Sumner fairly sums up the long-drawn-out argument precipitated by Webster in the Webster-Hayne Debate as to whether Nathan Dane or TJ originated the proviso for the exclusion of slavery in the western territories: “To Jefferson belongs the honor of the first effort to prohibit slavery in the territories, to Dane belongs the honor of finally embodying this prohibition in the Ordinance drawn by his hand in 1787” (Sumner to Coles, 23 Aug. 1852, PHi).

22Thus in MS, but the broadside text reads “states.” This was obviously a typographical error, but TJ failed to correct it in HB or JB and it is also uncorrected in OB.

23The passage “nine states agree … articles of Confederation” is deleted in OB and in the margin there is substituted the following: “the Consent of so many states in Congress is first obtained as may at the time be competent to such Admission.” This amendment was made in Congress on 20 Apr. 1784. Gerry first moved that the proviso be altered to read: “Provided such admission be according to the articles of Confederation,” but only five states could be mustered in support (TJ voting for the amendment) and the motion was lost. Williamson, seconded by Gerry, then moved the amendment recorded above and seven states supported the motion; TJ voted for it (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 251–2).

24Another typographical error occurred in the broadside text with the printing of this word as “adopt.” It was corrected in OB and JB, but TJ failed to make the correction in HB.

25This word deleted in all three broadsides.

26At this point in OB there is the symbol #, and in PCC: No. 30, p. 57½, there is a fragment with a corresponding symbol and the text in TJ’s hand of an amendment described below. On 23 Apr. Gerry moved the following amendment: “That such measures as may from time to time be necessary not inconsistent with the principles of the confederation are reserved for and shall be taken by Congress to preserve peace and good order among the settlers in any of the said new States, previous to their assuming a temporary government as aforesaid” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 274; MS in hand of Gerry in PCC: No. 36, iv, 563). Read, seconded by Spaight, then moved to postpone consideration of Gerry’s motion in order to take up the following amendment that he had unsuccessfully moved two days earlier: “That until such time as the settlers aforesaid, shall have adopted the constitution and laws of some one of the original states as aforesaid, for a temporary government, the said settlers shall be ruled by magistrates to be appointed by the United States in Congress assembled, and under such laws and regulations as the United States in Congress assembled, shall direct” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 259, 274–5; TJ had voted for the amendment on 21 Apr. possibly because he knew it would be defeated). But only Pennsylvania and Maryland voted for this postponement (TJ opposed it) and Read’s motion was lost. At this point, though the Journals credit Gerry with the amendment as ultimately adopted, TJ came forward with a substitute motion on the fragment referred to above (PCC: No. 30, p. 57½); that this motion was written by TJ in Congress is proved by the fact that on its recto are various tally marks by Thomson which were clearly on the paper before TJ used it to compose his substitute motion; on its verso is the tabulation of a balloting in Thomson’s hand). As originally phrased this motion by TJ read: “That measures not inconsistent with the principles of the Confederation and necessary for the preservation of peace and good order among the settlers in any of the said new states until they shall assume a temporary government in the manner as aforesaid, may be taken by Congress from time to time.” The latter part of this was altered (evidently in Congress, since the changes are in Thomson’s hand) to read: “…a temporary government as aforesaid, may from time to time be taken by the US in C assembled.” As thus altered, this substitute amendment was finally adopted (as noted by TJ on HB). However, the marginal insertion on JB begins: “That <such> measures <as may from time to time be necessary> not inconsistent with the principles of the Confederation and necessary for the preservation of peace and good order,” &c.; the deleted words correspond exactly with those in Gerry’s motion as originally introduced. This suggests that TJ may have drafted his substitute motion on JB and then copied it off on the slip of paper furnished by Thomson. But at any rate, though the Journals give Gerry credit for the amendment, the final wording was TJ’s.

The real issue, here, of course, was between the large measure of local control in the territories advocated by TJ and the augmentation of control by Congress advocated in Read’s amendment, for which all of the Pennsylvania and Maryland delegates voted—states in which the leaders of the large western land companies were centered and whose policies prevailed in the North-west Ordinance of 1787 that radically reversed the principles laid down by TJ in 1784.

27At this point a caret is inserted in OB and in the margin the following is written: “from and after the Sale of any part of the Territory of such state pursuant to this Resolve.” Corresponding additions appear in JB and HB.

28At the bottom of OB are the words “Yeas and Nays Mr Beresford.” This represented Beresford’s request for a roll call vote on the entire revised report as amended down to 23 Apr. 1784. The result showed that ten states voted in favor of the amended report and only Read of South Carolina joined Beresford in casting their state’s single vote in opposition.

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