George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Rufus Putnam, 5 April 1784

From Rufus Putnam

Rutland [Mass.] April the 5th 1784

Dear sir

Being unavoidably prevented from attending the General meeting of the Cincinnati, at Philadelphia as I had intended; and where I once more expected the oppertunity in person to pay my respects to your Excellency: I cannot deny my self the honnor, of addressing you by letter; to acknowledge with gratitude the ten thousand obligations I feal my self under to your goodness, and most sincearly congratulate you on your return to Domestic happiness; to enquire after your health and wish the best of heavens blessings may attend you & your Dear Lady.

the settelment of the Ohio country engross[e]s many of my thoughts, and much of my time sence I left Camp has been Imployed in, informing my self and others, with respect to the nature, situation and circumstances of that country, and the practability of removeing our selves there: and if I am to form an opinion, from what I have seen and heard on the subject; there are thousands in this quarter will emigrate to that country, as soon as the honorable Congress, make provision for granting lands there and locations and settelments can be made with safety; unless such provision be too long delayed: I mean till necessity turns their views another way, which is the case with some already and must soon be the case with many more.

you are Sensible of the necessity as well as the propriety of both officers and soldiers, fixing them selves in business some where as soon as posable, especially as many of them are unable to lie long on their Oars, waiting the desition of Congress on our petition,1 and therefore must unavoidably fix themselves in some other quarter, which when once don the Idea of removeing to the ohio country will probably be at an end with respect to most of them. besides the Commonwelth of Massachusetts have come to a resolution to sell their eastern country for public securities, and should their plan be formed and their proposition be made public before we hear any thing from Congress respecting our petition, and the terms on which the lands petitioned for are to be obtained, it will undoubtedly opperate much against the ohio scheme.2

from these circumstances and many others that might be mentioned we are growing very Impatient to hear what our prospects are.3 among others who have agreed to accompany me to the ohio the moment the way is open, are Brigdear Genl Tupper 4 Lt Colo. Oliver 5 and Major Ashley.6

I should have hinted these things to some members of Congress but the Delegates from Massachusett, althoe exceeding worthy men and in general would wish to promote the Ohio settelment, yet if it should militate with the perticuler intrest of this state by dreaning her of Inhabitants, especially at a time when she is forming the plan of setteling the eastern country, I doubt if they would be very warm advocates in our favor, and I dare not trust my self with any of the New york Delegates because that goverment, are inviteing the eastern people to settle in that state, and as to the Delegates from the other states I have no acquantence with any of them.

these circumstances must apologize for my troubeling your Excellency on this subject and requesting the favor of a line to inform us, what the prospects are with respect to our petition and what measures have been already, or are likely to be taken with reguard to the ohio country.

I shall take it as a perticuler favor, sir if you will be Kind enough to recommend some carractor in Congress acquainted with, and attached to the ohio cause with whome I may presume to open a corrispondence.7 I have the Honnor to be sir with the highest respect your Excellency’s Humble Servent

Rufus Putnam

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, OMC: Papers of Rufus Putnam. Putnam sent this letter to Henry Knox for Knox to take to Philadelphia and give to GW at the Cincinnati meeting (Putnam to Knox, 10 April 1784, NNGL: Knox Papers). Knox did not give the letter to GW until shortly before GW’s departure from Philadelphia on 18 May (see GW to Putnam, 2 June).

Rufus Putnam (1738–1824), a colonel of engineers in the Continental army during the Revolutionary War, became interested in western lands while farming in Massachusetts before the war. In 1773 he was a member of an expedition that went to search for lands on the Mississippi River. Congress failed to act in 1784 on the officers’ petition regarding the Ohio country (see note 1), but in 1785 it made Putnam the surveyor of western lands. The next year Putnam organized the Ohio Company. After becoming the superintendent of the proposed Ohio colony in 1787, he went out in the following spring with the first party that settled at Marietta. GW in 1792 made Putnam a brigadier general to treat with the Indians and in 1794 appointed him surveyor general of the United States, a post that Putnam held until his dismissal by President Jefferson in 1803.

1The petition to Congress dated 16 June 1783 and signed by nearly three hundred army officers, mostly from Massachusetts and New Hampshire regiments, asked for land, in the Miami country between the Ohio and Lake Erie, under the terms of Congress’s proclamation of 20 Sept. 1776. For the petition, see DNA:PCC, item 42.

2At the end of the war, Massachusetts turned to the selling of land in the District of Maine as a substitute for taxation. On 22 Mar. 1784 a committee of the General Court presented a comprehensive plan for laying out townships between the Penobscot and the St. Croix, the land that was to be sold. In July the legislature ordered that the townships be laid out and surveyed, and when this proceeded too slowly, it appointed Rufus Putnam surveyor, in November 1785. See Allis, William Bingham’s Maine Lands, description begins Frederick S. Allis, Jr., ed. William Bingham’s Maine Lands 1790–1820. 2 vols. Boston, 1954. In Publications of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, vols. 36-37. description ends 1:25–27.

3In his draft Putnam begins this paragraph: “Another reason why we wish to know as Soon as posa⟨ble⟩ what the intentions of Congress are respecting our petition is the effect Such knowledge will probably ⟨have⟩ on the Credit of the Certificates we have recived ⟨on⟩ Settlement of accounts those Securities are now Selli⟨ng⟩ at no more then 3/6 & 4/ on the pound, which in all probability might double if nomore the moment it was known that Goverment would recive them for lands in the ohio Country. from these circu⟨ms⟩tances.”

4Benjamin Tupper (1738–1792), an officer in the Massachusetts forces throughout the Revolution, was brevetted brigadier general in 1783. He was born in Stoughton, Mass., and died in Marietta, Ohio. Tupper was one of the organizers of the Ohio Company in 1785.

5Robert Oliver (1738–1810), a lieutenant of a company of minutemen in April 1775, served until November 1783, when he retired as brevet lieutenant colonel of the 2d Massachusetts Regiment. He was born in Boston and died in Marietta, Ohio. Oliver was active in the affairs of the Ohio Company from its inception, becoming president in 1801.

6Moses Ashley (1749–1791), a native of Westfield, Mass., served as a lieutenant in the Battle of Lexington in April 1775 and thereafter served in the Continental and Massachusetts forces until he retired on 12 June 1783 as major of the 6th Massachusetts Regiment.

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