Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Harrison, 3 March 1784

To Benjamin Harrison

Annapolis Mar. 3. 1784.


Mr. Hardy’s illness and Colo. Mercer’s absence deranged the order in which the office of corresponding member was to pass; so that Mr. Lee exercised it for January, Colo. Monroe for Feb. and Mr. Hardy takes it for the present month. I mention this that my own correspondence as an individual may not at any time be mistaken as having passed the sanction of the delegation. On receiving the act of assembly for the Western cession, our delegation agreed on the form of a deed; we then delivered to Congress a copy of the act, and the form of the deed we were ready to execute whenever they should think proper to declare they would accept it. They referred the act and deed to a committee, who reported the act of assembly to comport perfectly with the propositions of Congress and that the deed was proper in it’s form, and that Congress ought to accept the same. On the question to agree to the report of the Committee 8. states being present, Jersey was in the negative and S. Carolina and Pennsylva. divided (being represented each by 2. members) of course there were 5. ayes only and the report fell. We determined on consultation that our proper duty was to be still, having declared we were ready to execute, we would leave it to them to come forward and tell us they were ready to accept. We medled not at all therefore, and shewed a perfect indifferance. N. Hampshire came to town which made us 9. states. A member proposed that we should execute the deed and lay it on the table, which after what had been done by Congress would be final, urging the example of N. York which had executed their deed, laid it on the table, where it remained 18. months before Congress accepted it. We replied, no, if these lands are not offered for sale the ensuing spring, they will be taken from us all by adventurers. We will not therefore put it out of our power by the execution of a deed to sell them ourselves, if Congress will not. A member from Rhode island then moved that Congress should accept. Another from Jersey proposed as an amendment a proviso that it should not amount to an acknowlegement of our right. We told them we were not authorised to admit any conditions or provisoes, that their acceptance must be simple, absolute and unqualified or we could not execute. On the question there were 6. ayes, Jersey no, S. Carolina and Pennsylva. divided. The matter dropped and the house proceeded to other business. About an hour after, the dissenting Pennsylvanian asked and obtained leave to change his no, into aye. The vote then passed and we executed the deed. We have desired an exemplification of it under the seal of the states which we shall transmit you by the post if no safer opportunity occurs. This shews the wisdom of the assembly in not tacking any new conditions, which would certainly have defeated their accomodating intentions.

We have just received from the Superintendant of finance a report of the paiments made and the arrears still due on the requisition of Octob.30.1781. for 8 millions of dollars. This statement comes down to Jan. 1. 1784.

paid. Due
Doll. Doll
N. Hampshire 3,000 370,598
Massachusetts 247,676 ⅔ 1,059,919 ⅓
Rhode island 67,847 86/90  148,836.4
Connecticut 131,577 3/4 615,618 ⅙
New York 39,064 1/10 334,533 81/90
New Jersey 102,004 17/18 383,674 1/18
Pennsylvania 346,632 89/90 774,161 1/90
Delaware. nothing 112,085
Maryland 89,302 1/9 844,693 8/9
Virginia 115,103 8/15 1,192,490 42/90
N. Carolina nothing 622,677
S. Carolina 344,301 26/45 29,296 38/90
Georgia nothing 24,905
1,486,511 32/45 6,513,488 26/90

Colo. Harmer with the ratification of the Definitive treaty which was executed in Congress Jan. 14. got on board the French packet at N. York on the 20th of Jan. Colo. Franks took his passage in another vessel a few days after. Neither sailed till the 17th. of Feb., being blocked up by the ice. They have certainly then not got to Paris to exchange them this day as has been stipulated. In right this can make no difference. We executed the ratification in time, and it’s passage across the Atlantic was prevented by circumstances not under our controul. The accomodation of the Turks and Russians, leaving Europe in Peace and France of course at liberty, keeps us safe. This accomodation is said to have been effected by the interposition of France and Prussia. This does not come from our ministers, from whom we have had no late intelligence on this subject, but is told me by Monsr. Marbois who sais he had it from good information. We are still further insured against any ill effect from this accident if the news of the day be true. An English vessel, arrived at N. York, brings papers which say that Ld. North and Mr. Fox carried their E. India bill triumphantly by ⅔ of the voices through the house of commons, but lost it in the lords, whereon they resigned; and that Mr. Pitt and his friends would be at the head of the administration. The Prince of Wales voted against the bill and received a reprimand from the king. So far the papers. The change would be fortunate for us, as Ld. North’s hostility is notorious, and Pitt rather well disposed to us. The movements of the K. of Prussia to emancipate the navigation of the Vistula, and of the emperor to free that of the Scheld do not I beleive threaten the peace of Europe. On the contrary they indicate that they have no great work on hand. This assertion then of the natural right of the inhabitants of the upper part of a river to an innocent passage through the country below is rather pleasing to us. It tends to establish a principle favourable to our right of navigating the Missisipi.

We are now engaged in making an estimate of the expences of the current year. It appears that the Commissioners sent to the several states to settle their accounts add so unreasonable a proportion to the expences of the Finance department, that it is my opinion Congress will recall them after some not very distant day. I mention this that your Excellency may keep an eye over the progress of the state settlement with Mr. Turner and push it unremittingly to avoid the being obliged to send the vouchers, accounts &c. to Philadelphia for such parts as shall not be completed before the recall.

I have the honour to be with sentiments of very high respect & esteem Your Excellency’s Most obedt. & most humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

RC (Vi). TJ’s summary in SJL reads: “[Mar.] 3. The Governor. Hardy corresponding member—proceedings of Congress on our tender of deed—it’s execution—paiments and arrears of the several states on the requisition for 8. mill.—ratification sailed Feb. 17—Turks and Russns. pacified—Fox and North resigned—Pr. Wales voted against E. I. bill—movements of K. Pruss. to emancipate navigation Vistula, and the Emp. the Scheld.—hasten state settlement with Turner lest he be recalled.” TJ’s account of the acceptance of the Virginia cession does not state that on the same day there was presented a petition by Col. George Morgan, agent of the state of New Jersey, asking for the appointment of a commission under Article ix of the Articles of Confederation in order to settle a controversy that “now subsists between the said State, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, respecting a tract of land called Indiana, lying on the river Ohio, and being within the United States” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 110–11). But this effort by members of the Indiana Company to induce New Jersey to sponsor their claim—just as members of the Susquehannah Company had induced Connecticut to assert her western claim as against Pennsylvania (see report on the petition of Zebulon Butler, 21 Jan. 1784, note)—was defeated in Congress. A similar proposal by Morgan in 1780 had been summarily rejected by the delegates of Virginia (see Bland to TJ, 22 Nov. 1780 and note; Jensen, The Articles of Confederation, 232–5; Abernethy, Western Lands, 244). A motion to commit the petition was defeated, as was also a motion to appoint a committee “to consider and prepare an answer to the State of New Jersey,” the Virginia delegation voting solidly against both (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends xxvi, 111–12). The member from Rhode Island was David Howell, whose motion was seconded by Richard Dobbs Spaight of North Carolina. The member from New Jersey was John Beatty, whose motion, seconded by John Montgomery of Pennsylvania, was “that the acceptance of the said cession, in manner and form aforesaid, shall not be considered as implying any opinion or decision of Congress respecting the extent or validity of the claim of the Commonwealth of Virginia, to western territory, by charter or otherwise”; the delegates of Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania voted in favor of this motion, all others opposing it (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 116). The dissenting Pennsylvanian was either Montgomery or Mifflin; Burnett thinks it was Montgomery (Letters of Members, vii, No. 528, note 3). On the question of acceptance, both of the New Jersey delegates voted no and in this were joined by Beresford of South Carolina; Read, his colleague, informed Gov. Guerard that he thought “the Gentlemen lately our Colleagues [Rutledge and Izard] were … both decidedly of opinion with the Measure as likely to produce a Valuable fund for satisfying the Army and public Creditors” (1 Mch. 1784; same, vii, No. 526). That your excellency may … push it unremittingly: Harrison acted at once on receiving TJ’s letter; the Council directed the solicitor general to be as expeditious as possible in the settlement of the state’s account with the continent “as the board have reason to expect that Congress will recall their Commissioners” (18 Mch. 1784; Va. Council Jour., MS, Vi; Harrison to Solicitor General, 18 Mch. 1784, Executive Letter Book, Vi).

Index Entries