George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Botetourt, 5 October 1770

To Botetourt

Mount Vernon Octr 5th 1770

My Lord,

Being fully convincd of your Lordships Inclination to render every just and reasonable Service to the People you Govern, & to any Society or body of them that shall ask it; and being in a more particular manner encouragd by a Letter which I have just receivd from Mr Blair (Clerk of the Council) to believe, that your Excellency is desirous of knowing how far the Grant of Land sollicited by Mr Walpole & others will affect the Interest of this Country in general, or any set of Men in particular,1 I shall take the liberty (being tolerably well acquainted with the situation of the Frontiers of this dominion) to inform your Lordship, that the bounds of that Grant, if obtaind upon the extensive Plan prayd for, will comprehend at least four fifths of the Land for which this Colony hath lately voted £2500 Sterg for the purchase & Survey of; and must destroy the well grounded hopes of those—if no reservation is made in their favour—who have had the strongest assurances which Government coud give them, of enjoying some of those Lands, the securing of which, hath cost this Country much Blood and treasure.2

By the Extracts which your Excellency did me the honour to Inclose,3 I perceive that the Petitioners require to begin on the Southside of the Ohio, opposite to the Mouth of Scioto, which is at least 70 or 75 Miles below the Mouth of the Great Kanhawa (the place to which the Ministereal Line—as it is called—from Holsteins River is to Run, & more than 300 from Pittsburg) & to extend from thence in a Southerly direction through the Pass of the Ouasioto Mountain; which by Evanss Map, & the best Drafts of that Country I have ever yet seen, and all the enquirys I have been able to make from Persons who have explord those Wilds, will bring them near the latitude of North Carolina—From hence they go Northeasterly to the Fork of the Great Kanhawa (made by the junction of Green Briar and New River) on both of which Waters we have many Settlers on Lands actually Patented—from hence they proceed up Green briar to the head of the Northeasterly Branch thereof—thence Easterly to the Aligany Mountains—thence along these Mountains to the Line of the Lord Fairfax—thence with his Line, & the Lines of Maryland & Pensylvania till the Western boundary of the Latter shall strike the Ohio—thence with the same to the place of Beginning.4

These my Lord are the Bounds of a Grant under Consideration, and if obtaind, will in my humble opinion, give a fatal blow to the Interests of this Country; but this I have presumd to say as the sum of my thoughts as a member of the Community at large. I shall beg leave now to offer myself to your Excellencys notice as an Individual—in a more Interested point of view, and at the sametime as a person who consider’s himself in some degree the Representative of the Officers & Soldiers who claim a Right to 200,000 Acres of this very Land (petitiond for by Mr Walpole & others) under a solemn Act of Government; adopted at a very alarming & important crisis to his Majestys Affairs in America—to approach your Lordship in these Characters, it might seem necessary to prefa⟨ce⟩ an Apology; but I shall rely on your usual goodness & candour for the patient hearing of a few words in support of the equity of our Pretension’s, which cannot fail of being short, as I have taken the liberty of troubling your Lordship pretty fully on this head before.

The first Letter I ever did myself the honour of writing to your Excellency on the Subject of these Lands, & to which I now beg leave to refer, containd a kind of historical Acct of our claim;5 but as no embellishment is requisite to illucidate a right, when simple Facts are sufficient to establish the point; I shall beg leave to give your Lordship the trouble of reading the Inclosd order of Council of the 18th of Feby 17546 & Goverr Dinwiddie’s Proclamation in consequence thereof;7 & then add, that these Troops not only enlisted agreeable to the terms there stipulated, but behavd so much to the satisfaction of the Country as to obtain the honour of its public thanks—Woud it not be hard then My Lord to deprive men under these Circumstances (or their Successors[)] of the just reward of their Toils? Could this Act of the Goverr & Council, offered to, & accepted by the Soldiery, be considerd in any other light than as an absolute Compact? And tho’ the exigency of our Affairs renderd it impracticable for us to settle this Country for some years after the date of the Proclamation, & the Policy of Government forbid it for a few years longer, yet, the causes being now removd, & the Land given to some as a recompense for their losses; & sought after by others for private Emolument, have we not a title to be regarded among the first? We feign woud hope so—We flatter ourselves that in this point of view your Excellency will also consider it, & by your kind Interposition, & favourable Representation of our case,8 his Majesty will be graciously pleasd to confirm the 200,000 Acres of Land to Us agreeable to the terms of the Proclamation; Or if it shall be judgd necessary to be more particular in the Location of it, & your Lordship will be pleasd to cause the same to be signified to me, I will point out immediately thereupon, the particular Spots on which we woud beg to have our Surveys made (as part of the Land prayd for in our Petition of the 15th of Decr last to wit that on Sandy Creek will not be comprehended within the Line Running from Holsteins River, to the Mouth of the Great Kanhawa).

Such an Act of goodness as this My Lord, woud be confering a singular favour on Men, who do not know who else to apply to—On Men, the most of whom, either in their Person’s or Fortunes have sufferd in the cause of their Country; and cannot fail of meeting with such acknowledgments as result from grateful minds impressd with the due sense of obligation9—none will offer them with more sincere respect than Yr Lordships most Obedient & Most Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, PPRF; copy, P.R.O., C.O. 5/1348; copy, P.R.O., C.O. 5/1333. The two copies are certified by John Blair, Jr., as clerk of the Virginia council; one or both were enclosed in a letter of 18 Oct. to Lord Hillsborough from the president of the Virginia council, William Nelson. The copies are docketed: “In Mr Nelson’s Letter No. 2” and “In Prest Nelsons of the 18 October No. 2[,] No. 3.” A third copy, or version, of the letter, misdated 15 April 1770 and containing a number of differences from the other versions, is one of a series of letters relating to the military land, dating from 1767 through 1775, which GW’s clerk entered in a letter book (DLC:GW) well after the Revolution. A contemporary copy of the first half of the letter is in PHi: Etting Papers—Ohio Company.

1See GW to Botetourt, 9 Sept., n.3. The letter from John Blair, Jr., has not been found.

2On 13 Dec. 1769 the House of Burgesses agreed to make £2,500 available to John Stuart, the superintendent of Indian affairs in the South, for his use in negotiating a new boundary between Virginia and the Cherokee nation. On 15 June 1770 the burgesses reluctantly consented to have Stuart fix the boundary to run from where the Holston River crossed an extension of the Virginia-North Carolina line north to the mouth of the Great Kanawha. The Cherokee cession was confirmed by the Treaty of Lochaber on 18 Oct. 1770. The Walpole Company’s proposed colony of Vandalia would have encompassed all of the new Cherokee cession (i.e., the land lying between the Hard Labor treaty line of 1768 and the new Lochaber line) except for territory between the Cumberland Mountains and the North Carolina line. See note 4.

3The “Extracts” were probably taken from Hillsborough’s letter of 12 June to Governor Botetourt and from the copy of the Vandalia petition of the Grand Ohio (Walpole) Company enclosed in it. See GW to Botetourt, 9 Sept., n.3. Hillsborough’s letter of 31 July with its enclosures did not arrive until shortly after Botetourt’s death on 15 October. Hillsborough’s letters are in P.R.O., C.O. 5/.

4The boundaries of Vandalia were to run from the mouth of the Scioto on the Ohio southwest to Cumberland Gap, then up along the Cumberland Mountains to the fork of the Great Kanawha, formed by the New and Greenbrier rivers, up the Greenbrier to its source in the Alleghenys, along the Allegheny chains to Maryland’s western boundary and up Pennsylvania’s yet-to-be-determined western boundary to the Ohio, and, finally down the Ohio back to the mouth of the Scioto. Thus the proprietors of the Grand Ohio, or Walpole, Company would have controlled territory including nearly all of modern-day West Virginia and parts of eastern Kentucky and western Virginia. In any case, GW was soon to learn that the Walpole Company had already agreed to allot 200,000 acres in the survey to the claimants under the terms of Dinwiddie’s Proclamation of 1754.

6GW copied the order of the Virginia council of 18 Feb. 1754 at the end of his letter: “The Governor was pleasd to signify to the Board that as it was determined a Fort shoud be immediately Built on the River Ohio at the Fork of Monongahela, for the Security & protection of his Majestys Subjects in this Colony, and that a sufficient Force shoud be raisd to Erect & support the same, he judgd it necessary to give a reward of 200,000 Acres of Land on the East side of the River Ohio within this Dominion (clear of Rights and free from the payment of Quitrents for the term of Fifteen years One hundred thousand Acres where of to be contiguous to The said Fort, and the other hundred thousand Acres to be on or near the River Ohio) over and above their Pay, to all who shall voluntarily enter into the said Service; to be divided amongst them after the Performance of the said Service, in a proportion due to their respective Merit; The Council on due Consideration of the great advantage which will accrue to his Majesty from the taking immediate Possession of those Lands, & being satisfied that there are other Lands sufficient to answer the quantity granted to the Ohio Company, advised his Honour to notify and pu⟨blish⟩ the said Encouragement, by Proclamation[.] Orderd that a Proclamation do forthwith Issue accordingly. Copy Exd.”

7After copying the council’s order, GW copied Dinwiddie’s proclamation of “Encouraging Men to Enlist in his Majestys Service for the Defence & Security of this Colony” of 1754: “Whereas it is determined that a Fort be immediately Built on the River Ohio, at the Forks of Monongahela to oppose any further Encroachments, or hostile attempts of the French and the Indians in their Interest and for the Security and Protection of his Majestys Subjects in this Colony; And as it is absolutely necessary that a sufficient force shoud be raisd to erect and support the same: For an Encouragement to all who shall voluntarily enter into the said Service, I do hereby notify & promise, by and with the advice & consent of his Majestys Council of this Colony, that over and above their Pay, Two hundred thousand Acres of his Majesty the King of Great Britains Lands on the East side of the River Ohio within this Dominion (one hundred thousand Acres whereof to be contiguous to the said Fort & the other hundred thousand Acres to be on or near the River Ohio) shall be laid of and Granted to such Persons who by their voluntary Engagement & good behaviour in the said Service shall deserve the same And I further promise that the said Land shall be divided amongst them immediately after the performance of the said Service in a proportion due to their respective merit as shall be represented to me by their Officers, and held & enjoyd by them without paying any Rights & also free from the payment of quitrents for the term of fifteen years and I do appoint this Proclamation to be read & publishd at the Court Houses Churches & Chappels in each County within this Colony & that the Sheriffs take care the same be done accordingly[.] Given at the Council Chamber in Williamsburg on the 19th day of February In the Twenty Seventh year of his Majestys Reign Annoque Domini 1754. Robert Dinwiddie[.] God save the King[.] Copy Exd.”

At the end of the proclamation, GW wrote: “It may not be amiss to add, by way of Remark That, the Complimt of Men adjudgd necessary for this Service (tho. the event proovd them otherwise) were actually raisd in consequence of this Proclamation.—That they Marchd over the Alligany Mountains through almost inaceessable Passes; & built a Fort on the Waters of Monongahela (which they were obligd afterwards to Surrender to the superior force of the French & their Indian Allies)—That they conducted themselves in that Enterprize in such a manner as to receive the Honour of their Country’s Thanks (as may appear by the journals of the House of Burgesses in the Session following)—And that, many of them continued in the Service till the total Demolition of Fort Duquesne, & establishment of an English Garrison in its place.”

8Beginning at this point, the letter-book copy at DLC:GW differs greatly from the other versions of the letter. It reads: “his Majesty will be graciously pleased to confirm this Land to us agreeably to a petition presented to your Excellency in Council the 15th of last December; with this difference only, that instead of Sandy Creek, (one of the places allotted for the location of our Grant & which we now certainly know, will not be comprehended within the Ministerial Line—as it is called) we may be allowed to lay part of our Grant between the west boundary of Pennsylvania & the river Ohio which will be expressly agreeable to the words of Govr Dinwiddie’s proclamation, in as much as it is contiguous to the Forks of Monongahela. This favor my Lord would be conferg a singular obligation on Men, most of whom either in their Persons or Fortunes have suffered in the cause of their country—few of them benefited by the service, & cannot fail to receive the thanks of a grateful body of Men, but of none more warmly than those of your Lordships most Obt & mo. humble Servant.”

9Lord Botetourt died on 15 Oct., perhaps before seeing this letter, and William Nelson, president of the council, became acting governor. On 18 Oct. Nelson wrote Lord Hillsborough a long letter attempting to discover exactly the status of the Walpole Company’s grant and at the same time setting forth the soldiers’ stake in the lands and urging steps to protect their interests. Nelson continued: “After I had wrote thus far, and was reading it to the Gentlemen of the Council for their approbation a letter from Col George Washington to Lord Botetourt was delivered to me; which being read and appearing to be material on the present subject, they advised me to send a copy of it to Your Lordship, which is accordingly inclosed No. 3. I ought to acquaint your Lordship that he is the Gentleman who had the honour to command the first rais’d troops, to whom the 200,000 acres promis’d by Lieut Governor Dinwiddie’s Proclamation is due, and therefore he may be interested in the affair. However your Lordship will judge of the solidity of his reasoning” (JHB description begins H. R. McIlwaine and John Pendleton Kennedy, eds. Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia. 13 vols. Richmond, 1905–15. description ends , 1770–1772, 22–25).

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