George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, 1 February 1790

To the United States Senate and House of Representatives

United States [New York] February 1st 1790

Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives.

I have received from His Excellency Alexander Martin Governor of the State of North Carolina, an Act of the General Assembly of that State,1 entitled “an Act for the purpose of ceding to the United States of America, certain Western Lands therein described”—and have directed my Secretary to lay a Copy of the same before you, together with the copy of a Letter accompanying said Act from His Excellency Governor Martin to the President of the United States.2

The originals of the foregoing Act and Letter will be deposited in the Office of the Secretary of State.3

Go: Washington

LS, DNA: RG 46, First Congress, Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: RG 233, First Congress, Records of Legislative Proceedings, Journals.

2Tobias Lear delivered GW’s message with copies of Martin’s letter and enclosure to Congress on 1 Feb. 1790. On the same day the House appointed George Clymer, George Gale, James Madison, Thomas Tudor Tucker, and George Mathews a committee to consider them. The Senate, which had ordered to lie for consideration “an exemplified copy” of the state’s act of cession presented earlier that day by senators Samuel Johnston and Benjamin Hawkins of North Carolina, committed the president’s message to John Henry, Ralph Izard, Oliver Ellsworth, Richard Bassett, and William Few. On 17 Feb. they reported “That it will be expedient for Congress, in behalf of the United States, to accept the cession proposed by the said act, upon the conditions therein contained; and that when a deed shall be executed for the same, they express their acceptance thereof by a legislative act,” and this report was accepted and sent to the House for concurrence on 22 February. The next day the Senate appointed Ellsworth, Izard, and Caleb Strong to draft that legislation. They reported a bill on 3 Mar. which was read for the third time, engrossed, and sent to the House for concurrence on 5 March. On 26 Mar. a committee of the whole House considered and amended this “act to accept a cession of the claims of the state of North-Carolina to a certain district of western territory.” Three days later the Senate accepted the returned and amended North Carolina Cession Act, which GW signed on 2 April 1790 (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 1:233, 234–35, 243, 245, 246, 251, 252–53, 269, 270, 272, 274–75, 3:281–82, 317, 319, 345, 345–46, 352, 354; 1 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 106–9). The ceded territory was subsequently organized as a territory of the United States under the provisions of the “Act for the Government of the Territory of the United States, South of the River Ohio,” signed by GW on 26 May 1790 (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 6:1901–3). In June GW appointed the territorial governor, secretary, and judges (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 7 June 1790). The new government began operating in October 1790 (Carter, Territorial Papers, description begins Clarence Edwin Carter et al., eds. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 27 vols. Washington, D.C., 1934–69. description ends 4:37, 38, 429).

3Lear transmitted the originals to the office of the secretary of state the following day (Lear to Roger Alden, 2 Feb. 1790, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

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