George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Rome, 6 March 1793

From John Rome

Philadelphia March 6th 1793
fourth Street. No. 5


Suffer me to address you in behalf of the french Settlers at Gallipolis⟨.⟩ we preferred a petition to Congress, at their late Session, stating our embarrasments and distress from a Supposed defect of title to the lands which we had purchased and paid for & have begun to cultivate, and praying the aid of congress.1 the House of representatives pass’d a Bill granting us 50,000 acres of land: but this Bill failed in the Senate. The Senate, however, passed an order to the attorney G[ener]al, of which the inclosed is a copy2—and Several members of that Body inform me, that it is their hope, that the Laws of the Country will be found competent to do us justice, either in quieting us in the possession of the Lands we claim, or by a compensation in damages from those of whom we purchased, and that considering our depressed State, they believe Congress would be willing to Support the expence of a legal investigation of our rights; and that they will themselves be responsib⟨le⟩ for any expence which may be incurre⟨d⟩ for that end, before Congress shall m⟨eet⟩ again. The order to the attorney G[ener]al has been presented to him, and he declared his readiness to render us every Service in his power.3 we have further to hope Sir, as we are Strangers in the Country, and almost ruined by the confidence we have placed in Some of its citisens; and more especially, as delay of proceedings in our behalf, till the next Session of congress may prove fatal to the infant colony, that you will be pleased to regard our case, and as far as may consist with the powers vested in you, countenance and expedite a relief from our Sufferings. I Have the honour to be Sir with the Greatest Respect your most obedient Humble Servant


ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

John Rome (de Rome) was a captain in the second regiment of militia and a “Commissioner for the licensing of Merchants Traders and Tavernkeepers” in Washington County in the Northwest Territory (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 3:339, 383). Joseph Gilman, who later would become a federal judge in the Northwest Territory, described “Monsieur De Rome” as a man of good character, who “Speaks good english, and appears . . . too well bred to be troublesome” (Joseph Gilman to Nicholas Gilman, 6 Jan. 1793, MVHR description begins Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 50 vols. 1914–64. description ends 2 [June 1915]: 122–24).

1A number of French settlers had emigrated in 1790 to Gallipolis, in the Northwest Territory, after having purchased lands there from agents of the Scioto Company. When the company could not deliver a clear title to these lands or reimburse the settlers for their expenses after the company’s financial collapse in 1792, the settlers sent a petition dated 22 Dec. 1792 to Congress, asking for redress of their grievances (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 2:422–28). On 9 Feb. 1793 the House of Representatives read this petition and referred it to a committee for study (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 2d Cong., 2d sess., 868–69). For further congressional action on this issue during this session, see note 2. On the Scioto Company and the settlement of Gallipolis, see Louis Le Bègue de Presle Duportail to GW, 10 Feb. 1790, and source note, and Two Frenchmen to GW, 6 Mar. 1792, and source note. The second session of the Second Congress ended on 2 Mar., although the Senate convened for a special session on 4 Mar. (ibid., 665–68, 966).

2On 27 Feb. the House passed a bill to grant the petitioners “thirty thousand acres of land, to be divided among them in quantities proportioned to their late purchases of the Scioto Company; and that the further quantity of twenty thousand acres be divided equally among such of the said petitioners as are actual settlers of the said territory” (ibid., 884, 889, 895). This bill, however, failed to pass the Senate, which on 2 Mar. approved the enclosed order: “That the Petition of the French settlers at Galliopolis be referred to the Attorney General to examine and report to the Senate at the next session of Congress upon the validity of their claim to lands under purchases of the Ohio or Sciota Companies or other persons, together with his opinion of the means proper to be pursued by them for the obtainment of justice” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; see also ibid., 665).

3Tobias Lear’s docket indicates that in accordance with the Senate’s order, “This letter was referred to the Atty Genl who took measures upon it.” William Bradford, soon after he replaced Edmund Randolph as attorney general, issued a report on 22 Mar. 1794 in which he concluded that legislative action was needed to resolve the settlers’ claims (ASP, Public Lands, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:29–30). On 3 Mar. 1795 “An Act to authorize a grant of Lands to the French Inhabitants of Gallipolis, and for other purposes therein mentioned” was approved, granting 24,000 acres to the aggrieved settlers (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 442–43). Lear, acting on GW’s instructions, also sent this letter to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson “to answer as favorably as he could with propriety” (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 82; see also Lear to Jefferson, 6 Mar.). No answer from Jefferson to Rome has been identified.

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