Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Report on Case of Charles Russell, 22 January 1792

Report on Case of Charles Russell

Jan. 22. 1792.

The Secretary of State, to whom was referred by the President of the United States, the letter of the Governor of Virginia of January 7th. 1792, with the Report of a Committee of the House of Delegates of that Commonwealth of December 12th. 1791, and Resolution of the General Assembly thereon of December 17th. on the case of Charles Russell, late an Officer in the service of the said Commonwealth, stating that a considerable part of the Tract of Country allotted for the Officers and Soldiers having fallen into the State of North Carolina on the extention of their common boundary, the Legislature of the said State had in 1781 passed an Act substituting in lieu thereof the Tract of Country between the said boundary and the Rivers Missisippi, Ohio and Tennissee, and subjecting the same to the claims of their Officers and Soldiers: That the said Charles Russell had in consequence thereof directed warrants for 2666⅔ acres of Land to be located within the said Tract of Country; but that the same belonging to the Chickasaws, he is unable to obtain a right thereto, and that there are other Officers and Soldiers of the said Commonwealth under like circumstances. Reports

That the Tract of Country before described, is within the boundaries of the Chickasaw Nation as established by the Treaty of Hopewell the 10th. day of January 1786.

That the right of occupancy of the said Lands therefore being vested in the said nation, the case of the said Charles Russell and other Officers and Soldiers of the said Commonwealth becomes proper to be referred to the Legislature of the United States for their consideration.

Th: Jefferson

MS (DNA: RG 59, MLR); in clerk’s hand except for signature and date; endorsed. FC (DNA: RG 59, SDC). Dft (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand, dated 21 Jan. 1792 at foot of text, with the following addition: “J. H. Repr. Nov. 3. 90. pa. 21. bounty lands to Virga. line referred to Giles, Clark, Livermore. Jan. 23. 92. President’s message on Russel’s petition referred to same.”; endorsed by TJ: “Russel’s case.” and by a clerk: “January 21st. 1792. Recorded and Examined”. PrC of Tr (DLC); except for expansions, capitalization, and spelling, the text duplicates that of the draft from which it was copied. Tr (DNA: RG 59, SDR); dated 21 Jan. 1792.

Russell, who served as a lieutenant in the Virginia Line from 1776 to 1783, petitioned the Virginia House of Delegates in 1791 for payment of a pension for his military service, pointing out that the land he had been granted for Continental service under the terms of a 1781 Virginia law had since been recognized as part of Chickasaw territory by the United States. Predictably, the House of Delegates rejected Russell’s request for a pension, but at the same time put through the Assembly a resolution requesting Governor Henry Lee to inform the President of the plight of Russell and other Virginia officers and soldiers in the same situation so that he could lay the matter before Congress. Washington’s secretary sent TJ Governor Lee’s letter to this effect and the abovementioned enclosures, together with a request for a report (Tobias Lear to TJ, 20 Jan. 1792, RC in DLC; endorsed by TJ as received 20 Jan. 1792; FC in DNA: RG 59, MLR; Tr in RG 59: SDC; see also ASP, description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, Gales & Seaton, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends Public Lands, i, 26, for enclosures). Washington submitted TJ’s report and the supporting documents from Virginia to Congress on 23 Jan. 1792, but no remedial legislation was passed. After submitting the report, the documents were returned for deposit in TJ’s office (Lear to TJ, 23 Jan. 1792, RC in DNA: RG 59, MLR, and FC in same, RG 59, SDC).

TJ dealt with this issue again in a February 1793 report to the House of Representatives on the petition of another Virginia officer who faced the same problem as Russell, but with an equal lack of success. Indeed, as late as 1798 Russell’s widow sought compensation from the House of Representatives for the bounty lands he had been deprived of by the Treaty of Hopewell (Report on Petition of John Rogers, 16 Feb. 1793; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , i, 378; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , i, 494; ASP, description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, Gales & Seaton, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends Public Lands, i, 80–1).

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