James Madison Papers

Resolutions Appointing a Western Road Commissioner, 1 January 1785

Resolutions Appointing a Western Road Commissioner

Resolved that Thomas Massey esquire1 or in case of his death or failing to act through other cause, such person as shall be appointed by the Executive in his Stead, be authorized in Conjunction with the person appointed or to be appointed on the Part of Maryland, to open and keep in repair a convenient road from such part of the Waters of the Potowmack, to such part of the River Cheat—or of the River Monongalia, as on examination they shall judge most eligible; and that the sum of three thousand three hundred thirty three and one third dollars, arising from the taxes of the year 1784, out of the money subject to votes of the General Assembly, be paid by the Treasurer, on the joint order of the persons to be appointed as aforesaid, to be by them applied together with a like sum voted by the State of Maryland to the purpose aforesaid.2

Resolved that the Governor be desired to write to the State of Pensylvania, requesting permission to lay out and improve a Road through such part of the said State, as may be necessary in the best and most proper direction from fort Cumberland to the navigable Part of the River Yohogania.

Ms (Vi). In a clerk’s hand, endorsed by John Beckley and Will Drew. Docketed, “Resolution’s [sic] 1st: January 1785. appointing a Commissioner to open a Road from the Waters of the Potowmac to the Cheat River,” and at the lower margin, “Mr. Madison.”

1Thomas Massie (1748–1834) attended William and Mary and served as an officer in the Revolution, 1775–1781, including a stint as aide-de-camp to Gen. Thomas Nelson. He later settled in Nelson County (Tyler, Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, II, 142).

2Washington must have been the prime mover behind this resolution, which follows the line of reasoning in his 10 Oct. 1784 letter to Governor Harrison. In that important message Washington noted that goods could be brought from Pittsburgh to Alexandria “by the Yohoghaney in 304 Miles; whereof only 31 is land transportation: And by the Monongahela and Cheat river in 300 miles; 20 only of which are land carriage” (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXVII, 478). Washington had recently heard from an expert on distances and he may have shared this information about land routes with JM (Grace L. Nute, ed., “Washington and the Potomac: Manuscripts of the Minnesota Historical Society, [1754] 1769–1796, II,” AHR description begins American Historical Review. description ends , XXVIII [1922–23], 705). JM introduced the resolution and carried it to the Senate after its passage—conclusive evidence he was the author.

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