Page images
PDF
EPUB

rected General Harmar,* the commanding officer of the troops stationed on the borders of the Ohio, to endeavor to ascertain whether there was, at that time, any plan formed or forming among the western settlers for the invasion of the Spanish possessions. “In case," said the Secretary to General Harmar, “you shall receive such information on the subject as to remove all doubt that such a design is on the point of execution, you will form your post of such strength, if in your power, as will be able by force to prevent the passage of the party. Previously to exerting actual force you will represent, on behalf of the United States, to the persons conducting the enterprise, the criminality of their conduct and the obligation of the sovereign authority to prevent, at any hazard, such an audacious proceeding."

During the years 1787 and 1788, the commissioners of the United States did not succeed in their attempts to make a treaty with the hostile Indians who occupied the country on the northwestern side of the river Ohio. The hostile tribes insisted that the Ohio river should be the boundary between them and the United States. In the meantime General Harmar erected a fortification at the mouth of the river Muskingum, reinforced a small garrison at the Falls of the Ohio, and secretly despatched confidential agents to different parts of the country to ascertain the opinions of the western settlers on the subject of an invasion of the territories of Spain. Major John F. Hamtramck, of the United States army, was stationed at Post Vincennes, as commandant of that place. Among the first proclamations of that officer, there was one of the 3d of October, 1787, issued to prevent the sale of intoxicating liquors to Indians.

* By an act of Congress, of July 31, 1787, Colonel Josiah Harmar was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General by brevet.

[ocr errors][merged small]

BEFORE the deed of cession, of March 1st, 1784, the state of Virginia claimed the whole territory, lying northwest of the river Ohio and west of the state of Pennsylvania, extending northwardly to the northern boundary of the United States, as defined by the treaty of 1783, and westwardly to the river Mississippi. The states of New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, also, by virtue of ancient royal charters, respectively claimed large territories lying north of the river Ohio and west and northwest of the western boundary of Pennsylvania. The claim of New York was, however, transferred to the United States, by a deed of cession, executed in Congress on the first day of March, 1781. The claim of the state of Massachusetts was assigned to the United States, on the 19th day of April, 1785; and on the 13th day of September, 1786, the state of Connecticut transferred to the United States her claim to lands in the west, reserving a tract of about three millions of acres, bounded on the north by Lake Erie, on the south by the fortyfirst degree of north latitude, and extending westwardly one hundred and twenty miles from the western boundary of Pennsylvania. This tract was called the Western Reserve of Connecticut. In the month of October, 1786, the Legislature of that state ordered a part of the tract, lying east of the river Cuyahoga, to be surveyed, and opened an office for the sale of the lands. In 1792, a tract containing about five hundred thousand acres of land, lying in the western part of the Reservation, was granted by Connecticut to certain citizens of that state, as a compensation for property burned and destroyed in the towns of New London, New Haven, Fairfield, and Norwalk, by the British troops in the course of the Revolutionary war. The tract thus granted was called the Fire Lands. On the 30th of May, 1800, the jurisdictional claims of the state of Connecticut to all the territory called the Western Reserve of Connecticut was surrendered to the United States.

On the 23d of July, 1787, Congress adopted the following order, to wit: “That the Board of Treasury be authorized and empowered to contract with any person or persons for a grant of a tract of land which shall be bounded by the Ohio from the mouth of Scioto to the intersection of the western boundary of the seventh range of townships now surveying; * thence, by the said boundary, to the northern boundary of the tenth township from the Ohio; thence, by a due west line, to Scioto; thence, by the Scioto, to the beginning; upon the following terms to wit: The tract to be surveyed and its contents ascertained by the geographer, or some other officer of the United States, who shall plainly mark the said east and west line, and shall render one complete plat to the Board of Treasury, and another to the purchaser or purchasers. The purchaser or purchasers, within seven years from the completion of this work, to lay off the whole tract, at their own expense, into townships and fractional parts of townships, and to divide the same into lots, according to the land ordinance of the 20th of May, 1785; complete returns whereof to be made to the Treasury Board. The lot No. 16, in each township, or fractional part of a township, to be given perpetually for the purposes contained in the said ordinance. The lot No. 29, in each township or fractional part of a township, to be given perpetually for the purposes of religion. The lots No. 8, 11, and 26, in each township or fractional part of a township, to be reserved for the future disposition of Congress. Not more than two complete townships to be given perpetually for the purposes of an university, to be laid off by the purchaser or purchasers, as near the centre as may be, so that the same shall be of good land, to be applied to the intended object by the legislature of the state. The price to be not less than one dollar per

*Sce Ordinance of 20th May, 1785.

pur

acre for the contents of the said tract, excepting the reserva. tions and gifts aforesaid, payable in specie, loan office certificates reduced to specie value, or certificates of liquidated debts of the United States, liable to a reduction by an allowance for bad land, and all incidental charges and circumstances whatever; Provided, that such allowance shall not exceed, in the whole, one third of a dollar per acre. * * * Such of the chasers as may possess rights for bounties of land to the late army, to be permitted to render the same in discharge of the contract, acre for acre: Provided, that the aggregate of such rights shall not exceed one seventh part of the land to be paid for: and provided, also, that there shall be no future claim against the United States on account of the said rights. Not less than five hundred thousand dollars of the purchase money to be paid down upon closing the contract, and the remainder upon the completion of the work to be performed by the geographer, or other officer on the part of the United States. Good and sufficient security to be given by the purchaser or purchasers for the completion of the contract on his or their part. The grant to be made on the full payment of the consideration money, and a right of entry and occupancy to be acquired immediately for so much of the tract as shall be agreed upon between the Board of Treasury and the purchasers." *

On the 26th of July, 1787, Manasseh Cutler and Winthrop Sargent, acting as the agents of a company called “the Ohio Company of Associates,” † addressed the following letter to the Board of Treasury of the United States:

“New York, July 26, 1787. Gentlemen : We observe by the act of the 23d instant that your honorable Board is authorised to enter into a contract for the sale of a tract of land therein described, on certain conditions expressed in the act. As we suppose this measure has been adopted in consequence of proposals made by us, in behalf of ourselves and associates, to a committee of Congress,

*Old Journals of Congress, 230 July, 1787.

The “Ohio Company of Associates” was organized at Boston, and was composed chiefly of Revolutionary officers and soldiers.--Vide N. Am. Rev. vol. liji, p. 323.

[ocr errors]

we beg leave to inform you that we are ready to enter into a contract for the purchase of the lands described in the act; provided you can conceive yourselves authorized to admit of the following conditions, which in some degree vary from the report of the committee, viz:

The subordinate surveys shall be completed as mentioned in the act, unless the frequency of Indian irruptions may render the same impracticable without a heavy expense to the company.

The mode of payment we propose, is half a million of dollars when the contract is executed ; another half million when the tract as described is surveyed by the proper officer of the United States; and the remainder in six equal payments, computed from the date of the second payment.

The lands assigned for the establishment of an university to be as nearly as possible in the centre of the first million and a half of acres we shall pay for:—for, to fix it in the centre of the proposed purchase, might too long defer the establishment.

When the second payment is made the purchasers shall receive a deed for as great a quantity of land as a million of dollars will pay for, at the price agreed on: after which we will agree not to receive any further deeds for any of the lands purchased, only at such periods, and on such conditions as may be agreed on betwixt the Board and the purchasers.

As to the security, which the act says shall be good and sufficient, we are unable to determine what those terms may mean in the contemplation of Congress, or of your honorable Board ; we shall, therefore, only observe that our private fortunes, and that of most of our associates, being embarked in the support of the purchase, it is not possible for us to offer any adequate security but that of the land itself, as is usual in great land purchases.

We will agree so to regulate the contracts, that we shall never be entitled to a right of entry or occupancy, but on the lands actually paid for, nor receive any deeds till our payments amount to a million of dollars, and then only in proportion to such payment. The advance we shall always be under without

« PreviousContinue »