James Madison Papers

Motion of Virginia Delegates on Kentucky, [24 August] 1780

Motion of Virginia Delegates on Kentucky

Printed text (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVII, 763–64).

[24 August 1780]

A petition from a number of the inhabitants of Kentucke1 was read; on which

A motion was made by the delegates of Virginia, that this petition, together with that read yesterday,2 from a number of inhabitants of the said country, be transmitted to the governor of Virginia; which on the question, passed in the negative.3

1The petition, dated 19 May 1780 and addressed to Congress, contained about five hundred signatures. It asked separate statehood for Kentucky, principally on the grounds that its settlers were ineffectively governed by Virginia, that Virginia’s taxes were oppressive, and that Virginia had granted large tracts of Kentucky land to absentee owners who made no efforts to cultivate it (NA: PCC, No. 48, fols. 237–44).

2A similar petition, undated, and addressed to the president of Congress. This memorial, signed by some four hundred Kentuckians, asked to be allowed to govern themselves as citizens only of the United States. If their prayer was not granted, they would probably choose, in preference to remaining as “slaves” of the Virginia land engrossers and courts, either to move west of the Mississippi River under Spain or north of the Ohio River (NA: PCC, No. 48, fols. 247–48; Journals of the Continental Congress, XVII, 760).

3The vote of the state delegations on the motion is not known. Judging from the printed journals, no new petition asking separate statehood for Kentucky came before Congress until 27 August 1782. It then touched off an animated debate in which JM prominently shared (ibid., XXIII, 532; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1921–36). description ends , VI, 456–59).

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