V. On Western Territory
le 11 Avril 1784
Le Congrès va vendre le territoire en déça du Mississippi, que des Sauvages occupent, et dont on va l’achêter.
Pour cet effet, la Virginie vient de borner l’étenduë de ses possessions en faveur des Etats unis. On espère qu’elle va cêder plus de terrein encore, et qu’elle sera suivie par les deux Caroline et la Georgie.1
Je demande s’il est vraisemblable que jamais le congrès soit paié par les nouveaux colons?
L’esprit d’émigration en Europe, en Amérique, favorise la population de ces contrées. Le Juge Suprême de la Pennsylvanie, Mr. McKean, a dit au G. Washington que dépuis la paix quatre mille ames ont descendu l’Ohio à Pittburg. Un Irlandois est venu trouver le Gén. à Princetown et Lui a parlé de cinquante à cent familles Irlandoises prêtes à passer en Amérique. Huit cens habitans des rives du Kantucky ont demandé au congrès d’être érigés en État, eux leurs amis et leurs familles.
Ce paÿs qu’il s’agit de vendre est donc peuplé en partie, et se peuple tous les jours d’avantage.
A présent les nouveaux colons n’achêtent pas le terrein qu’ils vont occuper. On se plaint en Virginie et des habitans de Kantucky, dont un grand nombre n’a rien paié à l’Etat, et de ceux qu’on avait chargé de la vente, mais qui ont sacrifié l’interêt public. On prétend que la Virginie ne gagne rien à cette population de son territoire, qui bientôt de droit ne sera plus le sien, comme de fait il a déja cessé de l’être.2
Les colons en délà de l’Ohio, qui se trouveront plus éloignés encore, témoigneront ils une plus grande déférence aux loix de l’Assemblée fédérative?
Comme avant de vendre ce territoire il faut l’achêter, il est naturel que d’ici au traité avec les Sauvages, et délà à l’Inspection du paÿs, ces hardis émigrans qui s’établissent en dépit du Sauvage, en dépit des loix, augmenteront en nombre et n’en deviendront que plus intraitables. Si pendant cet intervalle les habitans aborigênes s’opposent à leur entreprise, et que le sort des armes les favorize, ils croiront possêdér de droit naturel ce qu’ils auront achêté de leur sang.
Les hommes qui vont se bannir de la societé pour habiter dans un désert, sont pauvres. Les émigrans riches achêtent les champs des émigrans pauvres qui pour subsister ont besoin d’un plus vaste territoire, et le trouvent dans l’interieur du pays, au prix des champs qu’ils viennent d’abandonner. Voilà des Émigrans qui peuvent païer, mais on ne leur en fournit pas l’occasion. Il est d’autres Émigrans, qui ne quittent leur patrie que parcequ’ils n’ont rien. Ceux là ne peuvent pas païer l’Etat. Enfin il est des hommes à Spéculations, qui achêtent des milliers d’arpens pour les revendre après plusieurs années quand les prix seront plus hauts.
Les premiers acheteurs de terres paieroient s’ils savoient à qui paier, mais ils n’attendent pas jusqu’à l’époque de la vente; ils partent dès a prèsent.
Les Émigrans de la seconde classe vont se prévaloir du moment favorable à leurs établissemens.
Les acheteurs du dernier ordre trouveront si peu de Sureté dans les actes d’un Gouvernement qui ne sauroit se faire obéir à cette distance, qu’ils désisteront leurs projets.
MS (Rijksarchief: Hogendorp Papers, The Hague); entirely in Hogendorp’s hand except as indicated below; covering leaf has a note in Dutch in a 19th century hand with the caption: “Verkoop van landeryen ten oosten de Mississipi (Western Territory) 11 April 1784.” Not printed in Brieven
On 26 Mch. 1784 young Hogendorp wrote to his mother from Annapolis: “Although at the present time the Congress, because of the jealousy of the States, is without power and credit, it seems to me that it has the undeviating intention of establishing a colossal empire, a Union which new nations, not yet in existence, will consent to join as time goes on. Congress has millions of acres of land at its disposal. It is a question of buying from the savages, who are called Indians here, a territory that most certainly one will soon see inhabited by the peoples of Europe and America. Land will be sold at the lowest possible price; from this income the debts of the Confederation will be paid off. This territory, once it is acquired, will be divided into districts of about 100,000 square miles. The new inhabitants will govern themselves by their own laws; they shall be limited only by the condition that they must establish a republican government, and no one must be allowed to become a citizen who claims a hereditary title. As soon as twenty thousand men have established a State they will form a government, and as soon as the number of inhabitants equals that of the smallest state of the Union the consent of nine states will be enough to allow them to be brought into Congress and to participate in the Confederation. But this matter is still in debate and what I tell you about it is only conjecture founded on the report of the committee” (Brieven, i, 333–4). Cinquante a cent families irlandoises: See Washington’s reply to the address of the Irish immigrants, 2 Dec. 1783 (Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, xxvii, 253).
1. Preceding three words added by TJ.
2. Accompanying MS there is a two-page comment in TJ’s hand on points made by Hogendorp, reading as follows: “The lands on the South East side of the Ohio have been actually purchased from the state of Virginia by those who inhabit them, except a few poor settlers who seated themselves before the landoffice was opened. These would not have refused to pay for their lands, but the state gave them two or three hundred acres: where they chose to have more they paid for them.
“Virginia has not made any great sum by the sale of these lands. This happened from the depreciation of the paper money for which it was sold, and not from any refusal of the people to pay; nor from any malversations in those entrusted with the sale. The latter could not take place, from the constitution of the land office.
“I have lately heard that some people have seated themselves on the North side of the Ohio. I rather doubt the fact. But if true at all, it is very lately that they have gone there. These very people will be glad to pay the price which Congress will ask to secure themselves in their titles to these lands. The method of sale heretofore practised by several states and now proposed by Congress has never been defeated and cannot be defeated. The first step taken is to pay the price to the public treasurer. The purchaser thereon receives from him a warrant to go and have any lands marked out by a surveior which have not been already paid for and marked out by another. This being done, a public conveiance of the land is executed to the purchaser. Till this conveiance is executed, his title is not firm. They are always anxious therefore to get this conveiance. Should a man settle on lands without having previously and regularly paid for it, any other paying the price may take it from him. No one therefore will chuse to take lands irregularly, when the regular and firm purchase is so easy. The price of lands is not in proportion to their fertility. It is a fixed sum. The consequence is that the good lands are sold first. But these becoming seated, raise the value of those of second quality. These again becoming seated raise the value of those of third quality, and so forth. Congress will probably take loan office certificates and other evidences of public debt in paiment for their lands. These then and not many will be carried into the treasury. But this will answer our purpose as perfectly as money: that is, the debt will be discharged as effectually. The territory ceded by Virginia contains about 250,000 square miles. It is difficult to foresee how much of this may be purchased of the Indians at the ensuing treaties: whether ten, twenty, thirty thousand or how many. Every square mile containing 640 acres will sell readily for two or three hundred dollars of public certificates, say 226 dollars, which is the third of a dollar an acre. This furnishes some data for conjecturing the impression which may be made on the public debt. I am of opinion this fund alone will take in all the public certificates within a few years. Every one will be glad to convert them into something solid, and especially into a subject which will rise in value, 10, 15, 20 per cent annually.
“The 4000 inhabitants said to have passed Fort Pitt since the peace, will be found to have settled on the South side of the Ohio, on lands purchased from Virginia.
“A small military force from the garrisons at Detroit F. will prevent adventurers from settling on lands unpurchased of the Indians. The Indians themselves, if Congress will give them leave, will repress these encroachments. These adventurers never go in numbers sufficient to bid defiance to government. The maxim, obsta principiis, if observed by Congress, will keep their lands free from intrusion. The state of Virginia alone kept these lands clear of settlement, till lately, being about giving them up, she paid no attention to them.”