Thomas Jefferson Papers

Resolution on Land Grants, [27 March 1775]

Resolution on Land Grants

[27 March 1775]

His Excellency the Governor having by proclamation bearing date the 21st. day of March in the present year declared that his majesty hath given orders that all vacant lands within this colony shall be put up in lots to public sale and that the highest bidder for such lot shall be the purchaser thereof, and shall hold the same subject to a reservation of one half-penny sterling per acre by way of annual quit rent and of all mines of gold, silver, and precious stones; which terms are an innovation on the established usage of granting lands within this colony;

Resolved, that a Committee be appointed to enquire whether his majesty may of right advance the terms of granting lands in this colony, and make report thereof to the next General assembly or Convention. And that in the mean time it be recommended to all persons whatever to forbear purchasing or1 accepting grants of lands on the conditions beforementioned; and that

be appointed to be of the said Committee.

Dft (vi). Written by TJ on a fragment of paper bearing, at the top, the notation “Passd.” and, on the back, a draft of the same Resolution which is probably the earliest draft, since it contains a correction by TJ that was incorporated in the draft adopted; unfortunately the hand in the first draft is not certainly identifiable.

For the background of Dunmore’s proclamation of 21 Mch., see note on George Mason’s Petition for Lands in Fincastle County, June 1774, above; the Proclamation itself is printed in Force, Archives, 4th ser., ii, 174. On 27 Mch. the Convention adopted the Resolution as framed by TJ and his unidentified collaborator (Conv. Jour., Mch. 1775, 1816 edn., p. 8). W. W. Henry (Life of Henry, i, 274–5) says that Patrick Henry drafted the Resolution, and the draft mentioned above may possibly be in his hand. The committee appointed to investigate the right of granting lands consisted of Patrick Henry, Richard Bland, TJ, R. C. Nicholas, and Edmund Pendleton. TJ began assembling documents at once (see letters from Wythe of 5 and 6 Apr.), but the committee never reported. On 15 Aug. the new Convention resolved that, until the committee did report, “all persons should forbear to purchase or accept grants of land under the late instructions from the governor,” and that “all surveyors be, and they are hereby directed, to make no surveys under the said instructions, nor pay any regard to the said proclamation” (Conv. Jour., Mch. 1775, 1816 edn., p. 17). See further, C. H. Lamb, “British Regulation of Crown Lands in the West …, 1773–1775,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly description ends , 2d ser., x (1930), 52–5.

1Two preceding words interlined in John Tazewell’s hand.

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