From George Lee Turberville
Richmond City January 8th. 1788.
The Commissioners appointed to liquidate the claim of this state against the United States on Acct. of the Ceded Territory were by some very animated resolutions of our house yesterday stopped from further proceeding in the business untill a remonstrance had been presented to Congress. This will no doubt be officially transmitted to you in a few days. The construction of the Words, “all necessary and reasonable expences” is what has given rise to the interposition of the Legislature—it appearing to be the design of the Continental commissioner to take up the business de novo—to contest the propriety of the payments actually made by the State, & to refuse even the Bills with the Acceptance of our Governor, as vouchers for the sums expended. Not having been one of the Committee & being totally unacquainted with the business altogether, I was not a little astonished to hear the Clerk read a Resolution (which was after those agreed to by the house) declaring that no further payments shou’d be made to Congress untill they had given us the fullest indemnification for our expenditures for the Conquest of the Illinois Country. The person who introduced the Measure (Colo. Mason), the Critical situation of this state—and of the Continent—and the violent features of the first resolutions—& the absolutely antifederal tendency of the last, occasion’d me to oppose the last—& eventually it was stricken out. Much I fear—least those which have passed shou’d be productive of heat—but as they will pass through the hands of our Delegation I have no doubt but that they will be placed in such a light before Congress—as shall be most conducive to our Interests.1
A District-Court Bill has passed both houses—much like that which was before our house last year. Four additional Judges are appointed (Mesrs. Prentis—Gabriel Jones—St George Tucker & Richard Parker) and three Judges are to attend his District. This as a most important & beneficial Measure—I am sure will be pleasing to you—& I have therefore inserted it.
Upon the subject of the proposed plan (some communications touching which I have a great desire to receive from yr. hands) I can only say that it appears to be gaining ground. The Letter of the Governor, has been of great service in promoting the adoption of it—he convinced its Enemies of the necessity of a change, & has pointed out not a single objection to the new plan in which they will coincide with him.
Our house will rise to day. So that shou’d you find it convenien[t] to favor me with a Letter—you will be pleased to direct it to Richmond County Via Hobbs Hole. I will promise you to be punctual correspondent—altho it will not be in my power to render my Letters either as usefull—as agreeable or as instructiv[e] as yours will be.
Please sir to present me most affectionately to Colo. Carrington & Mr. Brown—& beleive me to remain With great Regard your most Obedt. humble servant
George lee turberville
RC (NN). Addressed by Turberville and franked. Docketed by JM. Enclosure not found. Brackets enclose letters obscured in right-hand margin of Ms.
1. On the settlement of the accounts between Virginia and the U.S. concerning the cession of the Northwest Territory, see PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (10 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VIII, 343 n. 1; IX, 328, 329 n. 5. The initiative for legislative “interposition” in this matter had come from the state commissioner William Heth, who favored far greater compensation to Virginia for defending and maintaining the ceded territory than did the parsimonious John Pierce, the Continental commissioner. Although recognizing that many of the vouchers needed to support Virginia’s claims were lost, destroyed, or in an otherwise chaotic state, Heth believed the commonwealth in equity should be reimbursed about £200,000. He was willing to accept anything above £150,000, however. The third commissioner, David Henley, whom Heth regarded “as a real honest man,” would support a claim of “£120,000 perhaps, while the principles rigidly maintained by Mr. Pierce would have reduced it to £50,000.” In this situation Heth decided that the legislature should be informed of the proceedings of the commissioners (Heth to Edmund Randolph, 21 Mar. 1788, CVSP description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , IV, 414–15). The House responded on 17 Dec. 1787 by appointing a committee, with Mason as chairman, to request a statement of the proceedings and make a report (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond, In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1790 are brought together in three volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1787, p. 105). For the report and resolutions submitted by Mason to the House on 7 Jan. 1788, see Rutland, Papers of George Mason, III, 1031–37. The report noted that Heth and Henley had agreed to the Mason committee’s request to inspect the proceedings of the commissioners, but that Pierce had refused to “communicate any official information” before the completion of the final report. After examining the proceedings, “as laid before them by Mess’rs Heth and Henley,” the committee concluded that “Virginia, unless the General Assembly shall interpose, will be denied a credit for a great part of the money she has actually and bona fide paid in acquiring and maintaining the [North-west] territory.” The House then adopted resolutions suspending further proceedings of the commissioners until the assembly’s protest had been laid before Congress and instructing the state’s delegates in Congress to urge that body “to take measures for doing justice to this state.” Heth carried the report, resolutions, and other papers on the subject to the Virginia delegates, who submitted them to Congress on 3 Mar. (JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , IV, 209; JM to Randolph, 3 Mar. 1788; JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXIV, 77 n. 1). On 5 May the committee considering Virginia’s protest reported that the business was properly in the hands of the commissioners and should be settled by them without interference from Congress or Virginia (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXIV, 134–35). This report reflected an earlier private understanding between Heth and the committee that Virginia’s Northwest claim should be negotiated by the commissioners, “for it would be a damn’d disagreeable piece of work to bring before Congress.” From conversations with committee members Heth concluded that Pierce could be persuaded “to rescind his former opinions so far as to meet me on such terms as I should think myself Justifiable in closing with, or … resign his appointment” (Heth to Edmund Randolph, 9 Mar. 1788, CVSP description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , IV, 406). He accordingly requested and received authority from the Council of State to resume negotiations with the other commissioners (Heth to Edmund Randolph, 21 Mar. 1788, ibid., IV, 414–16; JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , IV, 226; Virginia Delegates to Heth, 20 Apr. 1788, Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VIII, 723). On 15 May the commissioners awarded Virginia the generous sum of $500,000 in specie. The liberality of the award was perhaps owing in part to the absence of the indisposed Pierce during the final negotiations (James, George Rogers Clark Papers, 1781–1784, pp. 465–66). Congress, however, rejected Secretary Thomson’s recommendation that the award be transmitted to the Board of Treasury office (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXIV, 180–81). This action reflected the opposition of Northern delegates, who grumbled that Virginia’s claim for compensation was too high a price for the cession of the Northwest Territory, but it apparently did not affect the validity of the award (Nicholas Gilman to John Sullivan, 22 Mar. 1788; Paine Wingate to Samuel Lane, 12 Apr. and 2 June 1788, Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VIII, 709, 716, 745–46). When the final settlement of accounts between the states and the U.S. took place in 1793, Virginia’s special Northwest claim, including interest, amounted to $740,000 (CVSP description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , VII, 55).