George Washington Papers

Petition to Lord Dunmore and the Virginia Council, 4 November 1772

Petition to Lord Dunmore and the Virginia Council

[c.4 Nov. 1772]

To His Excellency, the Right Honble John Earl of Dunmore, His Majestys Lieutt, & Govr General of the Colony & Dominion of Virginia; and to the Honble the Council.

The Petition of George Washington in behalf of himself, and the Officers and Soldiers claiming Land under the late Govr Dinwiddies Proclamation in 1754. Humbly sheweth

That pursuant to an order of Council of the 15th of Decr 1769,1 William Crawford, a Person of good Character, and well acquainted with the Country to the Westward of the Alligany Mountain’s, was appointed Surveyor of the 200000 acres granted to yr Petitioners by the above Proclamation; that in consequence of this appointment, he has been engaged in exploring, and Surveying the said Land since the Month of Octobr in the year 1770; and that, notwithstanding the greatest diligence & Industry hath been used, has not been able to procure no more than about 120,000 acres; owing to the Inconvenience, and with due difference & respect your Petitioners wd beg leave to add, hardship, of compelling them to take the Land in large Surveys; when, though the Country abounds in fertile Vales, & small Tracts of good Land, quantities, (especially in those places which they have been allowed to locate their Grant in) cannot be had in one body, without comprehending so much of the Rocky, Barren, & almost ⟨mutilated⟩able ⟨mutilated⟩ ledges of Hills & Mountains which hem them in as to render the whole an Incumbrance instead of a bounty, agreeable to the ⟨origi⟩nal Intentions; for the truth of which, they appeal to every one whose knowledge off, or acquaintance with that Country, has furnishd them with the means of forming a just Idea of its Situation.

Your Petitioners therefore most humbly Pray, that, inasmuch as it appears they have used their best endeavours to obtain the Land In the number of Surveys allowed by the aforesd order of Council and still lack near 80,000 Acres of their quantity—That as they did in order to avoid as much as possible interfering with any Settlements or ⟨other⟩ claims go two or three hundd Miles below Pitsburg, & as much below the then Inhabitants for their Land. And as the nature of the Country they went into has proovd such as to render any more large Surveys in the district allotted them Impracticable (as far as they know or beleive, without Inclosing so much of the Land before describd as to render the good burthensome) That your Excellency & Honours would be pleased to take their case into consideration and suffer them to proceed to the Survey of such smaller Tracts as the nature of the Country affords till they have compleated the full quantity they are entitled to under the Proclamation; and this your Petitioners are induced most humbly to hope for, when it is further considered.

First—That without this Indulgence they consequentially are deprivd of that reward for their Services which the Faith of Government, in a Solemn manner, was plited to bestow on them; & that, so far from deriving any extra benefit from the Proclamation (which Issued at a very Important Crisis to the well being of this Country, and was certainly meant as an encouragement to Men to enter freely into the Service upon that emergency) they fall short of the common Usages which have been practised upon less urgent occasions, for the truth of which they beg leave to refer to several Orders of Council which took place much about the same period respecting large Grants to Individuals by which it will appear that the Grantees were not confined to any limited number of Surveys, but left at liberty to take them up in one or more as it suited their convenience; and moreover that this has been a prevailg Custom since the first Settlement of the Colony, and indeed from the very nature of things must continue to be so in the Peopling of any New Country where difficulty and danger is to accompany the Adventurer, as it is the cream of the Land if one may be allowed to use the expression which stimulate⟨s⟩ men to such kind of Enterprise, in defiance of fatigue, Hunger, & the danger of a Savage Neighbour.

Secondly—That by considering of your Petitioners as a collective body they are put upon a much worse footing than any Individual of the Community, for were the same number of Men to apply seperately to this, or any other Government (having the same reason & justice on their side) each Person wou’d obtain a seperate Survey; the knowledge of which custom Induced your Petitioners to believe that when the Proportion’s which were to be allotted to each Person according to their respective Ranks were fixed by your Excellency & honours that each Person would be entitled to a seperate Survey; & not in the first Instance be run to a proportionate charge of Surveying the whole quantity & then his seperate Tract afterwards thereby Subjecting them to an extra charge, when, f⟨rom the⟩ whole scope & tenour of the Proclamation, they hoped for every Indulgence which Govt consistently could give them.

And lastly that, whilst your Petitioner’s in vain are expending their money, time, & labour in Search of large Tracts the number of Emigrants into that Country are possessing themselves of all the valuable small ones, by which mean’s in a little time there will be neither great nor small left in the district appropriated to them nothing but actual possession being able to restrain the Settling of these People on any Land they like nor will any thing else secure it agt the numbers [of] Newcomers wch are now spreadg all over the face of that Country[.] Restricting your Petitioners therefore to a confind number of surveys in such a mountainous Country is not only rendering them an exception to the common mode of Proceeding but depriving them of a benefit which others have hitherto enjoyd, and turning that, which certainly was originally designed as a reward, into a hardship peculiar to themselves, which your Petitioners, from the well known justice that has ever prevaild at your Honble Board by no means suspects to be the Intention altho’ in it’s consequences it is attended with this effect; rather flattering themselves that Men, who had enter’d into an absolute Compact with Government & Seal’d it at the Expence of their Blood would meet with every favour that the Rules of Governmt could endulge them in—in obtaining their Land. For these Reason’s your Petitioners most humbly hope to have the prayer of their Petition Granted2 or, that your Excellency & honours Could afford them such other relieve in the Premises as to you in your wisdom shall see fit & would moreover be pleased to direct in what manner Patents for the Lands already Surveyed are to Issue as they are desirous of proceeding to the Settlement thereof without loss of time.3 and your Petitioner’s as in duty bound will ever pray.

ADf, PPRF. GW’s docket reads: “Memorial laid before the Council October 1772,” but this clearly is the petition GW laid before the council on 4 November. See note 2.

1The order in council authorizing the survey of 200,000 acres in twenty surveys for allotment to the officers and men of the Virginia Regiment of 1754 is printed in note 1, GW’s Petition to Botetourt, c.15 Dec. 1769.

2On 4 Nov., with only councillors Philip Ludwell Lee, Robert Carter, and Ralph Wormeley, Jr., present, the council rejected the request to increase the number of surveys from twenty: “The petition of George Washington, Esqr. in behalf of himself & the other officers and Soldiers of the first Virginia Regiment, referring to former Orders of the Board which restrict them to twenty Surveys in the taking up of the 200000 Acres of Land offered them by Governor Dinwiddie’s Proclamation; and praying for Reasons there given, that they might be allowed a greater Number of Surveys; and also that the Board would be pleased to direct in what manner Patents ought to issue for the Lands already surveyed, was now presented and read, and the farther Consideration thereof posponed till Friday next, except as to that Part, which prays to be indulged with a greater Number of Surveys, which was now rejected” (Exec. Journals of Virginia Council description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia. 6 vols. Richmond, 1925–66. description ends , 6:510). For GW’s earlier unsuccessful petition on behalf of the Virginia Regiment of 1754 to have the number of surveys increased beyond the number of twenty, see Petition to Governor and Council, 1–6 Nov. 1771, docs. I and II.

3A “true Copy Examd” in GW’s hand of the action taken “At a Council held Novr 6th 1772” reads: “The Memorial of Colo. George Washington in behalf of himself and others of the Officers and Soldiers, who were to Share the 200,000 acres of Land promised by Proclamation issued by the then Lieutt Govr Robt Dinwiddie Esqr. was this day laid before the Board & considerd; whereby it appears that of the twenty Survey’s allowed by a former order of the Board, thirteen have been compleated by the several Persons there mention’d; whereupon it was ordered, that the following Patents Issue, viz.

“To George Muse, Andrew Lewis, Adam Stephen, Peter Hog, John West, [ ] Polson, & Andrew Wagener for Fifty one thousand three hundred and two Acres.

“To Colo. George Mercer, for his own Claim, those of his Brother’s and of John Hamilton & Mark Hollis; for thirteen thousand five hundred & thirty two Acres.

“To John Savage, Robert Longdon, Robt Tunstall, Edmund Wagenor, Richard Trotter, Wire Johnston, Hugh McKoy, Richard Smith, John Smith, Charles Smith, Angus McDonald, Nathan Chapman, Joseph Gatewood[,] James Samuel, Michael Scully, Edward Goodwin, William Bailey[,] Henry Bailey[,] William Copland, Matthew Doran, John Ramsay, Charles James[,] Matthew Cox, Marshall Pratt, John Wilson, William Johnson, John Wilson, Nathaniel Barrett, David Gorman, Patrick Gallaway, Timothy Conway, Christian Bombgardner, John Houston, John Maid, James Ford, William Braughton, William Carnes, Edward Evans, Thomas Moss, Matthew Jones, Philip Gatewood, Hugh Paul, Daniel Staples, William Lowry, James Ludlow, James Latort, James Gwin, Joshua Jordan, William Jenkins, James Commack, Richard Morris, John Gholson, Robert Jones, William Hogan, John Franklin, John Bishop, George Malcomb, William Coleman, Richard Boltan, John Kincaid & George Hurst. Twenty eight thousand, Six hundred, and twenty Seven acres, and the shares of such of them as may be dead, are to go to those who legally represent them.

“To Colo. George Washington, one Patent for Ten thousand Nine hundred and Ninety Acres; another for Four thousand three hundred and ninety five acres; another for Two thousand four hundred and forty eight Acres; and another for two thousand three hundred and fourteen Acres; Being for his own Share of 15000 acres, & in part of his purchases of 5000 acres from George Muse, & of 600 from Sergeant Brickner.

“To the Heir or other Representative of Colo. Joshua Fry decd one Patent for four thousand One hundred & Forty nine acres; another for Two thousand and Eighty four acres; and another for one thousand five hundred & Twenty five acres.

“To Doctr James Craik, one Patent for Four thousand two hundred and thirty two acres; and another for One thousand three hundred and Seventy four acres.

“To George Muse One Patent for Nine hundred and twenty Seven Acres. John Blair Cl: Concl” (photocopy, DLC:GW). GW’s docket on this document reads: “Copy of an Order of council of the 6th Novr 1772 which appears to have changed it’s Form.” GW may be referring to the numerous differences between this manuscript and what appeared in the council journals. See Exec. Journals of Virginia Council description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia. 6 vols. Richmond, 1925–66. description ends , 6:513–14.

The council journals, before the listing of the land patents that were to be issued, have: “Col. George Washington being introduced into the Council Chamber, and presenting to the Board a Scheme of Partition of Sundry Surveys of Land among certain of the Officers and Soldiers who were to share the 200000 Acres promised by Governor Dinwiddie’s Proclamation, after having been heard thereupon withdrew.” And at the end of the listing, the journal has these two paragraphs: “And it was farther ordered, that the said Patents issue without Rights and with a Reservation of Quitrents from the Feast of St. Michael which shall be next after 15 years from the Dates thereof respectively, according to the said Proclamation.

“And Col. Washington engages, that if at the intended Meeting of the several Claimants at Fredericksburg, or in any reasonable Time after, the above Distribution should be complained of as unequal, and upon a Represent[ation] to the Board it should appear to be so, he will give up all his interest under his Patent, & submit to such regulations as the Board may think fit to prescribe” (ibid.).

For the action taken by the officers at their meeting on 23 Nov. regarding GW’s offer to “give up all his interest,” see the Resolutions of the Officers of the Virginia Regiment of 1754, 23 Nov., and their second resolution of that date printed as note 3 in that document.

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