Mississippi Land Company’s Memorial to the King
To the Kings most Excellent Majesty
The Humble Memorial of Inhabitants of Great Britain Virginia, Maryland, &c.
May it please your Majesty[Belleview, 9 September 1763]
The Memorialists considering it the duty of all good subjects to improve to the utmost of their power the blessings of peace and reflecting how this improvement may best be obtained by the exertions of their abilities and the application of their fortunes; have proposed with the approbation and under the protection of your Majesty to settle as speedily & effectually as possible, some part of that vast Country on the Mississippi and its waters; now unquestionably your Majesty’s territory by the late treaty of Peace.
The Increase of the people, the extension of Trade and the enlargement of the revenue are with certainty to be expected, where the fertillity of the Soil, and mildness of the Climate invite emigrants (provided they can obtain Lands on easy terms) to settle and cultivate those commodities most wanted by Great Britain and which will bear the charges of a tedious navigation, by the high prices usually given for them—such as Hemp, Flax, Silk, Wine, Potash, Cochineal, Indigo, Iron &c. by which means the Mother Country will be supplied with many necessary materials, that are now purchased of foreigners at a very great expense—Especially naval stores so essential to the very being of a commercial state, that it must under great restraints, in all Transactions with those powers by whom they are furnished. Whilst the inhabitants of the infant settlement, finding their labour most profitably bestowed upon Agriculture will not think of interferring with the Mother Country in Manufactures but afford a never failing demand for them.
To effect these good purposes the memorialists have formed themselves into a Company by the name of the Mississippi Company, that by a union of their Councils and fortunes that may in the most prudent and proper manner explore & as quickly as possible settle that part of the Country hereafter mentioned, if your Majesty shall be graciously pleased to indulge them with these conditions.
1st That your Majesty grant unto your Memorialists, being fifty in number by the name of the Mississippi Company two million five hundred thousand acres of Land on the Mississippi, & its waters, to be laid off within the following bounds begining upon the East side of the River Mississippi one hundred and twenty miles above, or to the Northward of the confluence of the River Ohio th[e]rewith. Thence by a Line to strike the River Wabash or St Ierom eighty miles above its junction with the River Ohio. Thence Southerly crossing the River Ohio one hundred and twenty Miles above the union of Ohio and Wabash. and abutting on the main branch of the River Cherokee or Tenesse one hundred and fifty miles above the junction of Cherokee River with Ohio and proceeding thence Westerly in a line to strike the River Mississippi ninety Miles below the union of Ohio with that River; thence upon the said River to the begining.1
2dly That your Memorialists shall have liberty of holding their Lands twelve or any other larger number of Years that your Majesty shall approve (after a survey thereof shall be made & returned) clear of all composition money quit-rents or Taxes. And that your memorialists within twelve Years shall be obliged to seat the said lands with two hundred Families, at the least, if not interrupted by the savages or any foreign enemy, and to return the survey thereof to such office as your Majesty shall be pleased to direct otherwise to forfeit the Grant, so to be made by your Majesty, and the said lands liable to the entries of any other Adventurers.
The Memoralists humbly hope that your Majesty may be graciously moved to grant these favorable terms in consideration of the heavy charges and great expences they must necessarily incur, in the exploreing, surveying and settling this distant country and the great risk they will run of loosing their property, from their contiguity to the French, & their proximity to the Indian Nations—And because it hath been found by experience, that large Tracts of Land taken up by companies may be retailed by them to Individuals, much cheaper than they can obtain them immediately from the Crown—occasioned by the Charges arising from the sollicitation of patents making surveys and other contingent expences. Besides the difficulty the poorer sort are under from their Ignorance of the proper methods to be taken in solliciting patents as well as their inability to advance ready money for such purposes. Whereas from Companies they have only to receive their Conveyances, without any previous Expence, and credit given them to make their payments, when by their industry they become enabled to do so.
And though attempts to settle in this way, have sometimes miscarried, in the hands of Gentlemen possessed of afluent fortunes because of that indolence & inattention frequently attending persons in such Circumstances especially when not excited by the near prospect of immediate & considerable profit. The greater part of the present adventurers being of good families & considerable influence in the Counties where they live, though possessed of but moderate fortunes, are induced from the goodness of the soil and Climate of the Country upon the Mississippi to believe that by a proper application of their money and industry, they will acquire as well a present advantage as a provision for their prosperity; which being joined by the pleasing prospect of public utility; all their affairs will be conducted with that spirited assiduity, which in matters of danger & Difficulty, can only insure success. The truth of this is evident from a determined resolution in several of the Members to be themselves among the first settlers.
The Memorialists most humbly submit it to Your Majesties great Wisdom whether the remote situation of this Country from the Colonies already settled, may not render it expedient to protect the Infant Settlement from the insults of the Savages. Which protection might effectually be obtained, if Your Majesty were graciously pleased to order a small Fort to be garrisoned at the confluence of Cherokee River with Ohio; as it would interpose between the first Settlers, and the Chicazaw and Chattaes Indians the only powerful Nations on that quarter. Which is probable, might by a small Garrison, be influenced to continue in their antient amity with British Subjects. Especially the former of these Nations, whose faith and friendship, have ever remained firm and unaltered. At the same time a Garrison placed at the junction of Ohio with Mississippi might contribute powerfully to check the French settlers on the West side of the latter River, if they should be disposed to encroach on the Dominions of Your Majesty, in that part where they appear to have been inclinable to take footing on account of its communication with the Northwestern lakes; & the convenience wherewith in time of War they can harrass and disturb Your Majesties colonies already settled.
It is humbly conceived from the mild and friendly disposition of the Southern Indians that the Settlement of the Country proposed, may be obtained more safely & speedily by begining such Settlemt in their Neighbourhood than further North, where the fierce and warlike Irocois, with their six nations ever accustomed to War and sheding of blood, would certainly obstruct, if not absolutely prevent the Settlement for many Years to come while the southern Settlemt begun in safety and advancing in security, will soon become much too powerful to be prevented in their progress, by the enmity of the Northern or any other Indians at the same time that by conducting a trade useful to the Indians on the borders of Mississippi they will effectually prevent the success of that cruel policy, which has ever directed the French even in time of peace, to prevail with the Indians their Neighbours to lay waste the frontiers of Your Majesties Colonies thereby to prevent their increase.
In consideration of the reasons here afforded, the Memoralists most humbly submits this their Memorial to your Majesty’s Wisdom.2
D, P.R.O., 30/8, Chatham Papers, ff. 125–27. This memorial is printed in Carter, Illinois Country description begins Clarence Edwin Carter. Great Britain and the Illinois Country: 1763–1774. Washington, D.C., 1910. description ends , 165–69. This is the copy of the memorial in the minutes for the meeting of the Mississippi Land Company of 9 Sept. 1763 when it was approved. The company directed Charles Digges to take its copy of the memorial to Thomas Cumming for him to arrange its presentation to the king’s privy council (see Mississippi Land Company: Articles of Agreement, 3 June 1763, n.2). For reference to a revised version of the memorial, dated 16 Dec. 1768, see note 1 below.
1. The Mississippi Land Company later changed the area it was seeking to include lands “between the thirty eighth and forty second Degrees of North Latitude, the Alligany Mountains on the Eastward, and thence Westward to the dividing line” (Petition to the King, December 1768, P.R.O., PC 1/54 [two copies]).
2. On 26 Sept. 1763 the executive committee of the Mississippi Land Company approved the memorial to the king and a letter of the same date to the Quaker merchant Thomas Cumming in London. The letter reads: “We are now to inform you that a Number of Gentlemen of this Colony and the province of Maryland, many of them your particular acquaintances, have projected a Scheme for taking up a Considerable Tract of Land on a navigable part of the Mississippi, and some of its dependancies. That for this purpose they have formed themselves into a Company by the Name of the Mississippi Company and have agreed to such Articles and rules for the better executing their plan, as the nature of the thing suggested to them. Of which together with their subsequent proceedings you will herewith receive a Copy where you will perceive that we are directed to propose to you to become one of the Company and to desire that you will be pleased to procure so many Subscribers to the Scheme, as will amount to nine, of such influence and fortune as may be likely to promote its success. The particular spot chosen by the Company you will find by this Memorial, lies on the River Mississippi, a considerable way above and below the confluence of Ohio therewith; and extending from the Mississippi, into the Country Eastward and Southward so as to comprehend the quantity they want, on the first mentioned River, and its great Branches Wabash Ohio and Cherokee rivers. Many reasons have Contributed to the Choice of this place; such as the goodness of the Navigation from thence to the Gulph of Mexico the fineness of the Climate, it being in about 38 Degrees of North Latitude, the country level, and the Soil from unquestionable intelligence, as fertile as any in the Globe. These powerful inducements cannot fail to effect a speedy settlement of this Country which must render the share of each adventurer extremely valuable.
“The benefit then to be derived to the Company, being so probable, it remains only to obtain if possible, from the Crown a Grant to the Company (by the name of the Mississippi Company) for such Lands and on such Terms, as they have proposed in their Memorial. For their Success in this point they rely on you, and as they are concious that solicitations of this sort are attended with expence to defray this they present you with an hundred Gunieas.
“The Company would choose to have their memorial laid before the King, as soon as you shall find it expedient to do so, from having previously conciliated the favor of the Ministry thereto. And if you find that it is to be attended with success, you are desired to give the Committee the most early intelligence, and at the same time to inform them what expence will arise from the suing out of Letters patent, that they may immediately call a meeting of the Company to raise the requisite sum.
“But in the meantime you are to proceed as far as the nature of the thing will admit in suing out such Letters patent. The Company choose Letters patent rather than a Mandamus to the Colony, because, so many persons of the first influence here, are concerned in Land Schemes; that a thousand nameless, artfull obstructions would be thrown into their way to prevent the success of their enterprize.
“Also it is desired that a warrant for Survey shall be solicited from the Crown and left blank to be filled up with the Name of such Surveyor as the Company can agree with to do their Business on the cheapest Terms, because the legal Fees of the qualified Surveyors here, are so oppressive, that the Expence of Surveying the Company’s Grant would be insupportably great. But this application need not be made until the Letters patent be obtained.
“It is apprehended that considerable difficulties will attend the attainment of the Grant we request, & for these reasons which have been urged here, as prevailing with you: First that the Grants of large Tracts of Land prevent the poorer sort of People from settling by the previous ingrossing of the Soil. However plausible this may appear in theory, the contrary has been found true in practice.
“It having been discovered from experience, that Land taken up by Companys may be retailed by them to Individuals, in such a manner as to profit the taker up and yet the purchaser from him, obtain his Land cheaper than he could himself possibly have taken it up originally, because where a large Quantity of Land is to be Surveyed, an artist can be obtained to do the whole business, for a much less Sum than the Survey of the same Quantity would cost a number of Individuals having distinct property in it, and employing different Surveyors add to this the heavy charges that arise from the taking out so many different patents, the expence of travelling and attending Offices, and lastly the utter ignorance the poorer sort Labor under of the proper methods to be taken in this solicitations of patents, and their inability to advance ready Money for such purposes. All which is removed by the method we propose, as we carry people immediately to the spot invite others to come, and give them Deeds for the Lands they want on reasonable Terms, and Credit given them until they by their industry become enabled to pay for their purchases. But in answer to all this it is urged, that what we propose to do, may be done at the expence and under the immediate protection of the Government. It is very true that if the Country proposed to be settled was not of very large extent, this method might answer. But as it happens otherwise and that the Country comprehends many thousand Miles in circuit, this method would create a most prodigious heavy Government expence[.] 2dly It is said that by the treaty of Eastern, made with the Indians during the War, that all the Lands West of the Allegany are given up to the Indians for hunting grounds, & therefore good faith requires that they shod not be molested in the quiet possession of them. In answer to this objection it may be urged that the Treaty was made with the Northern Indians & therefore could only mean to affect those Lands commonly used by them as hunting grounds. That therefore the Lands solicited for by this Company must be out of the question, as it is far south, at least 600 Miles from the Indians who were then treated with & where they never go to hunt. And also that by the Common principles of reason & the Law of nations that treaty is vacated by the Indians themselves, who for the sleightest causes have attacked his Majesties fortifications and most barbarously murdered in cold blood the Kings Officers and Troops, that they have also invaded most of the Colonies East of Allegany and penetrated deep into them plundering and murdering multitudes of his Majesties Subjects, and destroying the country before them with Fire and Sword. This insult on his Majesties Government and their first Violation of the Treaty, now puts it in the power of the Crown consistently with Justice, to pursue the political Plan of getting that country seated as quickly as possible, we call it political, because the fertility of the soil the immence quantity of it, the fineness of the Climate and the Situation. Navigation, renders it one of the most proper Countrys in the World for the production of Hemp of which Commodity, so necessary to Britain any quantity may there be produced. As well as a variety of other crude materials for manufactures, which at present we purchase from Foreigners at a very great expence; such as Silk, Iron, Indigo, &c. But above all things Hemp it appears peculiarly adapted to, because that plant so greatly & quickly impoverishes ground, that to make it in any quantity’s, not only a Soil uncommonly fertile is requisite, but there must be a prodigious quantity also the good policy of this measure, will further appear from considering how effectually a strong Colony settled at the place proposed by the Company will contribute to prevent any encroachments the French settlers on the west side of the Mississippi, may be disposed to make on the Kings Territorys in that Part, and how they will be cutt off from all communication with the Indian nations, and thereby be prevented from instigating them to War, and the harrassing the Frontier Countries as they have constantly done, of all the Colonies.
“It is to be considered likewise that as the French have already a very powerful Settlement upon the River Illinois, and many Settlements among the lakes and as by the Treaty of peace they are to remain there as British Subjects; whether, if our people are not allowed to settle beyond the Allegany, will not the above mentioned French be apt (under the security of the vast distance of 8 or 9 hundred Miles from our Settlements) to invite over their Neighbours and Countrymen the West side of the Mississippi, and thereby gradually take such strong hold of that Country as to make another expensive War requisite to remove them?
“This is no improbable event, when we attend to the enterprizing & encroaching genious of the French, ever fond of invading their Neighbours rights when then can do it with any tolerable security. And that they will be permitted to do this unmolested by the Indians is extremely probable from the powerful influence they appear to have over the minds of these people by their behaviour to these settlers at the time they were besieging his Majesties Fort at Detroit, the 11th of last May when they made use of the French as Mediators between them and the Garrison which French most dishonestly gave up the Kings Officers they had engaged to protect, to the Cruel fury of the Indians no doubt the better to conciliate the affections of the Savages. And by the summons they sent Major Gladwin wherein they call the French their Fathers. These facts make it certain whatever encroachments the French may be inclined to make, they will meet with no obstruction from the Indians. These are hints Sir, that we have thought it prudent to mention to you, that if necessary, may be urged to the Ministry, but we doubt not but your reflections will furnish you with reasons of more weight than any we have here suggested.
“We are also to observe to you Sir, that Col. Mercer is now in London soliciting for the Ohio Company, and perhaps he may have under his protection the Interest of other Companies whose concerns may possibly interfere with ours, or that he may think so; and thereby be induced to oppose our Scheme; we request you not to converse with Col. Mercer on the Subject of our Solicitation, nor to let him know that any such plan is projected. This Letter together with our Original Articles, the memorial, & all our papers will be delivered you by Mr Chas Digges a worthy member of the Company whose opinion in what results to the concerns of the Company we recommend to your attention; and if it should not be agreeable to you to be a Member or to solicit our affairs, we advise you, and it is our opinion that in the appointment of another Agent, you consult Mr Digges, and that you take his sentiments in the Choice of those nine Members to be procured in Britain and in that event Mr Digges will receive our Papers and put them into the hands of another Solicitor. But nevertheless we hope your friendship for many members of the Company will induce you to favour their Scheme, and to assist Mr Digges with your advise. We have nothing more at this Time to observe to you, but only that you will be pleased from time to time to give us all necessary information and that you direct your Letters intended for us to Mr Wm Lee in Westmorland County Virginia” (P.R.O., 30/8, Chatham Papers, ff. 127–29. The letter is printed in Carter, “Mississippi Land Company,” description begins Clarence E. Carter, “Documents Relating to the Mississippi Land Company, 1763–1769.” American Historical Review 16 (1910–11): 311–19. description ends 312–15).