George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Botetourt, 9 September 1770

To Botetourt

Mount Vernon Septr 9th 1770.

My Lord,

The very obliging offer your Lordship was pleasd to make me in behalf of the Officers and Soldiers, who (under faith of Government) lay claim to the 200,000 Acres of Land on the Waters of Ohio promisd them by Proclamn in 1754 I postpond availing Myself of because it was evident to me from the knowledge I have of the back Country & the rapidity with which it is settling that any considerable delay in the prosecution of our Plan woud amount to an absolute defeat of the Grant inasmuch as Emigrants are daily Seating the choice Spots of Land and waiting for the oppertunity (when the Office is opend) of solliciting a legal Title under the advantages of Possession & Improvement—two powerful Plea’s in an Infant Country—I therefore hoped My Lord, as the Officers and Soldiers who suffered in the cause of their Country still do hope, that notwithstanding your Lordship was of opinion that you coud not at that time vest them with an absolute Grant of the Land, that you woud nevertheless permit them to take such steps at their own expence and rick as others did for the security of their qty of Land agreeable to the Proclamation under which they claim; especially as the claim of the Soldiery may be considerd to all intents & purposes as a Compact between the Governt & them—that the whole voice of the Country is in favour of it—and that little doubts remd of these Lands falling within the limits of Virginia when the Bounda[r]y coud be establishd.1

This My Lord was the light in which I viewd the matter—in this point of view it also appeard to the Officers who lately met agreeable to my Summon’s;2 but now, a report prevails that a large Tract of Country on the Ohio Including all the Land which this Governt Voted £2,500 Ster. for the purchase & Survey of, is actually granted to a Company of Gentlemen in England & is to be formd into a seperate Governmt immediately. If this report be true, there is no doubt but that your Lordship has recd the most Authentick Accts of it, as it so essensially concerns the Interests and expectations of this Country—dare I therefore My Lord presume to ask if your Lordship has recd any Advice of it? &, if so, whether there is any reserve in favour of all or any of the Orders of Council here? that I may from thence form some judgment of the Predicament we stand in and Govern myself accordingly.3 Such a piece of Information by Post to Alexa. might do essential Service to the Officers & many poor Soldiers who have confided in me to transact this affair for them, & woud be acknowledgd as a very singular honr conferd on Yr Lordships Most Obedt and Most Hble Servt.

ADf, CLU-C. At the end of the letter GW wrote: “Copy of a Letter to the Govr,” and he docketed it: “George Washington to Lord Botetourt. 2d Lettr 9th Septr 1770.” As he did with the draft of his letter to Botetourt of 8 Dec. 1769, which he labeled “1st Letter,” GW used this draft as the retained copy of the letter that he sent to Botetourt.

1What Botetourt’s “obliging offer” was is not clear, but GW’s response seems to indicate that Botetourt had suggested some alternative to GW’s proceeding under the authority of the Virginia council’s order of 16 Dec. 1769 with the survey and distribution of the 200,000 acres of land, on the assumption that the “absolute grant” would someday be forthcoming.

2GW is referring to the meeting of the Virginia officers held in Fredericksburg on 2 August. See Advertisement, 16 Dec. 1769, n.1.

3At the end of 1769 the Walpole associates in London, composed of influential Londoners and Pennsylvanians, first proposed to Lord Hillsborough and the Board of Trade that they be permitted to buy nearly two and one half million acres of the recently ceded Ohio lands for about ten thousand pounds. See Jonathan Boucher to GW, 18 Aug. 1770, n.4. A few days later the leaders of the associates raised their sights, formed themselves into the Grand Ohio Company, usually called the Walpole Company, and on 4 Jan. 1770 secured the support of the lords of the treasury for them to become proprietors of a new colony embracing perhaps twenty million acres in the Ohio country (Abernethy, Western Lands description begins Thomas Perkins Abernethy. Western Lands and The American Revolution. 1937. Reprint. New York, 1959. description ends , 45–46). As early as 18 Jan. 1770 Edward Montagu, London agent for the colony of Virginia, reported to the committee of correspondence of the House of Burgesses the activities of Samuel Wharton and Thomas Walpole (Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 12 [1904–5], 159–61). On 12 June and again on 31 July, Hillsborough wrote Botetourt giving him official notice of the Walpole Company’s wish to create a colony on Virginia’s frontiers and seeking the reaction of Virginians to this (P.R.O., C.O. 5/1348, ff. 99–100 and f. 112). The first mention in GW’s correspondence of the proposed colony is in Jonathan Boucher’s letter of 18 Aug. 1770, and this letter to Botetourt of 9 Sept. is the first in which GW alludes to it. Within two weeks of the time GW wrote this letter, Botetourt fell ill and died on 15 October. On about 1 Oct., John Blair, Jr., in a letter that has not been found, informed GW of the boundaries of the colony of Vandalia and suggested that the governor would welcome his comments. For GW’s response, see his letter to Botetourt, 5 October.

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