Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes on the Connecticut Cession, 11 February 1799

Notes on the Connecticut Cession

the bill for accepting the Connecticut cession Feb. 11. 99. in Senate

the claim of Connecticut is barred

  • 1. by the prior charter to Virginia.
    • 2. parties to every charter. king & people.
      • accordg. to legal principles the charter cannt be infringd but with consent of both parties
      • consent of people may be given
        • 1. by express decln
        • 2. by acquiescence
      • the Quo. War. never decided, and if it had been decided, could only affect the company, not the people, all the sbsqt proceedgs of crown & governors admitted the existence & oblign of the charter.1
      • the grants of Pensva & Maryland acquiesced in in the long run,
      • confirmed by constn of Virga.
      • the proclmn of 1763. did not purport an abridgment, nor was there ever an acquiesce.2
    • the will of the king to abridge a charter may be by express decln or by doing some act which manifests it, as3 limiting it by another grant.
  • 2. therefore the Pensva charter abridged that to Connect.
    • cutting it quite across, it shewed the meang of the king to limit Con. by Pensva.
      • the king could never intend the parts of Con. E. & W. of Pensva shd be undr 1. govmt
  • 3. the reservn in the original Plymouth grant saves the charter of Virga
    • the charter to Connect. was meant to be carved out of the original Plymouth grant.4
  • 4. the settlemt of the Western boundary of Con. by Nichols & other commrs. valid
    • this settlemt notifd. to Connect. at the time of their patent.5
    • the Government of Con. subscribe to that settlemt.
    • the agents of Conn. acknolege that boundary before the board of trade in Engld
    • the Governor in his correspdce with Penn on the invasion of Wyoming admits it
    • the legislature of Conn. acknoleged it see Smith’s pamphlet

MS (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand; endorsed by TJ: “Connecticut reserve.”

Feb. 11. 99: by a motion approved on Friday, 8 Feb. 1799, the Senate made the order of the day for the following Monday a “bill authorizing the acceptance, from the state of Connecticut, of a cession of the jurisdiction of the territory west of Pennsylvania, commonly called the Western Reserve of Connecticut.” However, the Senate journal gives no indication that the bill was debated on Monday the 11th, although it was considered on 12–14 Feb. and given to a committee for the second time. The bill, introduced by Uriah Tracy late in December 1798, passed the Senate on 25 Feb. 1799, but the House of Representatives immediately postponed it to the next session. When it became law on 28 Apr. 1800 the measure provided for the formal cession of jurisdiction over the Western Reserve and confirmed land titles there that derived from Connecticut (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 2:567–8, 571, 581, 584, 586, 590–2, 594–5, 597; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:56–7). For TJ’s involvement with the issue of Connecticut’s western claims, see Editorial Note and group of documents on the Connecticut-Pennsylvania territorial dispute, Vol. 6:474–507, and the undated notes printed in Vol. 1:248.

Quo. War.: quo warranto. Title to much of the land in the Western Reserve, which fell within the limits of the North-west Territory, came by way of the Connecticut Land Company formed in the 1790s (Shaw Livermore, Early American Land Companies: Their Influence on Corporate Development [New York, 1939; repr. 1968], 177–87).

Nicholas & Other commrs.: in 1664 Richard Nicholls, lieutenant governor of New York, and other royal commissioners agreed on “the western Bounds” of Connecticut with the governor of that colony and commissioners appointed by the Connecticut assembly (William Smith, Jr., The History of the Province of New-York, ed. Michael Kammen, 2 vols. [Cambridge, Mass., 1972], 1:36). John Penn was lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and the elder Jonathan Trumbull the governor of Connecticut during the early 1770s when the Wyoming region of the Susquehannah Valley became the scene of conflict among settlers claiming authority from the two colonies. During Penn’s absence in England, 1771–73, his brother Richard served as lieutenant governor (Colonial Records, 16 vols. [Harrisburg, 1851–53], 10:118–19, 151–2, 163–4; Samuel Hazard and others, eds., Pennsylvania Archives. Selected and Arranged from Original Documents in the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, 119 vols. [Harrisburg, 1852–1935], 1st ser., 4:408–9; Robert J. Taylor, Colonial Connecticut: A History [Millwood, N.Y., 1979], 60, 235–6, 250; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ).

Smith’s pamphlet: [William Smith], An Examination of the Connecticut Claim to Lands in Pennsylvania. With an Appendix, Containing Extracts and Copies Taken from Original Papers (Philadelphia, 1774). See Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 3143.

1Preceding two sentences (beginning “the Quo. War.”) interlined.

2Sentence interlined.

3TJ here canceled “grant.”

4Sentence interlined.

5TJ here canceled “the agents of Conn.”

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