George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, 10 November 1791

To the United States Senate and House of Representatives

[Philadelphia, 10 November 1791]

Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives.

The Resolution passed at the last session of Congress, requesting the President of the United States to cause an estimate to be laid before Congress at their next session, of the quantity and situation of the lands not claimed by the Indians, nor granted to, nor claimed by any of the Citizens of the United States, within the territory ceded to the United States by the State of North Carolina, and within the territory of the United States North West of the River Ohio, has been referred to the Secretary of State; a copy of whose report on that subject I now lay before you, together with the copy of a letter accompanying it.1

Go: Washington

DS, DNA: RG 46, Second Congress, 1791–1793, Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: RG 233, Second Congress, 1791–1793, Records of Legislative Proceedings, Journals.

1Unable to pass a land office bill before its adjournment, the First Congress instead passed on 3 Mar. a resolution requesting the president “to cause an estimate to be laid before Congress at their next session,” of unclaimed federal lands in the Northwest and Southwest territories (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 225). GW assigned the task to Thomas Jefferson, who drafted a report in early October that he revised after receiving further information from North Carolina (see Tobias Lear to GW, 14 Oct., n.2). Jefferson transmitted the final report to GW on 8 Nov., writing: “I have now the honour to inclose you a report on the lands of the U.S. within the North Western and South Western territories, unclaimed either by Indians, or by citizens of these states. In order to make the estimate of their quantity & situation, as desired by the legislature, it appeared necessary first to delineate the Indian boundaries which circumscribe those territories, & then to present a statement of all claims of citizens within the same; from whence results the residuary unclaimed mass, whereon any land law the legislature may think proper to pass, may operate immediately, & without obstruction. I have not presumed to decide on the merits of the several claims, nor consequently to investigate them minutely. this will only be proper, when such of them as may be thought doubtful, if there should be any such, shall be taken up for final decision” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). The enclosed copy of Jefferson’s 23–page report is in DNA: RG 46, Second Congress, 1791–1793, Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages. The copy that Jefferson gave GW for his records is in DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. It is printed in Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends , 22:274–88.

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