George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 20 March 1785]

Sunday 20th. Mercury at 39 in the Morning—42 at Noon and 40 at Night.

Morning lowering. About Noon the Sun came out and the Weather looked promising but in the afternoon it clouded & threatned, and sometime after dark began a mixture of Snow and rain.

Wind was at East, and So. East all day—sometimes pretty fresh but for the most part of it moderate.

Major Jenefir came here to dinner and my carriage went to Gunston Hall to take Colo. Mason to a meeting of Comrs. at Alexandria for settling the Jurisdiction of Chesapeak Bay & the rivers Potomack & Pocomoke between the States of Virginia & Maryland—The Commissioners on the Part of Virginia being Colo. Mason—The Attorney General—Mr. Madison & Mr. Henderson—on that of Maryland, Major Jenifer Thoms. Johnson, Thos. Stone & Saml. Chase Esqrs.

Conflicting claims of colonial Virginia and Maryland over the control of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay were put to rest only temporarily during the Revolution. In 1784 Virginia authorized the four commissioners here named to confer with agents of Maryland for the purpose of settling those questions. The Virginians were also authorized to consult with the Maryland commissioners on how to gain the cooperation of Pennsylvania in developing a water and land route from the Potomac Valley to the Ohio Valley, wherein the Potomac River water route would be developed by the Potowmack Company recently authorized by Maryland and Virginia. GW hoped that the project “may be of great political, as well as commercial advantages . . . as it may tie the Settlers of the western Territory to the Atlantic States by interest, which is the only knot that will hold” (GW to Benjamin Lincoln, 5 Feb. 1785, DLC:GW).

attorney general: Edmund Randolph (1753–1813) was at this time attorney general of Virginia and a delegate to the Continental Congress. He was the son of John Randolph, the attorney general of the colony who had fled with Governor Dunmore at the outbreak of the Revolution. Randolph served as an aide to GW, 1775–76, and was a member of the Virginia Convention of 1776.

James Madison, of Montpelier, Orange County, sponsored the resolutions establishing the Virginia commission. Thomas Stone (1743–1787), one of the six sons of David and Elizabeth Jenifer Stone of Poynton Manor, Charles County, Md., studied law in Annapolis under Thomas Johnson, who appears here. Stone married Margaret Brown (d. 1787), one of nine daughters of Dr. Gustavus Brown (1689–1762) of Rich Hill, Charles County, Md. His home, Habre-de-Venture, was near Port Tobacco in Charles County, Md. Stone, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence for Maryland, was now serving his second term in the senate of that state. Samuel Chase (1741–1811), a lawyer, merchant, and speculator, now of Annapolis, had been a Maryland leader in the Revolution, and as a member of both Continental Congresses, he had been a strong supporter of GW throughout the war. GW later appointed Chase to the United States Supreme Court where, although impeached during Jefferson’s presidency, he served until his death.

The Virginia commissioners had not been notified that this first meeting was to be held in Alexandria this week, and only George Mason and Alexander Henderson, who both lived nearby, were present on the day appointed (see FREEMAN description begins Douglas Southall Freeman. George Washington: A Biography. 7 vols. New York, 1948–57. description ends , 6:30; MASON [2] description begins Robert A. Rutland, ed. The Papers of George Mason, 1725–1792. 3 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1970. description ends , 2:812–23; MADISON description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends , 8:89–90, 206–7, 337–39).

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