« PreviousContinue »
land, John Kean and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina, as his associates. On the tenth of May this committee read their report. It asked the consent of Virginia to a division of the territory into not less than two nor more than five states; presented a plan for their temporary colonial government; and promised them admission into the confederacy on the principle of the ordinance of Jefferson. Not one word was said of a restriction on slavery. No man liked better than Monroe to lean for support on the minds and thoughts of others. He loved to spread his sails to a favoring breeze, but in threatening weather preferred quiet under the shelter of his friends. When Jefferson, in 1784, moved a restriction on slavery in the western country from Florida to the Lake of the Woods, Monroe was ill enough to be out of the way at the division. When King in the following year revived the question, he was again absent at the vote; now, when the same subject challenged his attention, he was silent.
At first Monroe flattered himself that his report was generally approved ;* but no step was taken toward its adoption. All that was done lastingly for the West by this congress was the fruit of independent movements. On the twelfth of May, at the motion of Grayson seconded by King, the navigable waters leading into the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence, and the carrying places between them, were declared to be common highways, forever free to all citizens of the United States, without any tax, impost, or duty.
The assembly of Connecticut, which in the same month held a session, was resolved on opening a land office for the sale of six millions of acres west of the Pennsylvania line which their state had reserved in its cession of all further claims by charter to western lands. The reservation was not excessive in extent; the right of Connecticut under its charter had been taken away by an act of the British parliament of which America had always denied the validity. The federal constitution had provided no mode of settling a strife between a state and the United States; a war would cost more than the land was worth.f Grayson ceased his opposition; and on the
* Monroe to Jefferson, New York, 11 May 1786.
fourteenth of the following September congress accepted the deed of cession by which Connecticut was confirmed in the possession of what was called her “western reserve.” The compact establishment of the culture of New England in that district had the most beneficent effect on the character of Ohio and the development of the union.
For diminishing the number of the states to be formed out of the western territory, Monroe might hope for a favorable hearing. At his instance the subject was referred to a grand committee, which on the seventh of July reported in favor of obtaining the assent of Virginia to the division of the territory north-west of the Ohio into not less than two nor more than five states.
With singular liberality Grayson proposed to divide the country at once into not less than five states. He would run a line east and west so as to touch the most southern part of Lake Michigan, and from that line draw one meridian line to the western side of the mouth of the Wabash, and another to the western side of the mouth of the Great Miami, making three states between the Mississippi and the western lines of Virginia and Pennsylvania. The peninsula of Michigan was to form a fourth state ; the fifth would absorb the country between Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and the line of water to the northern boundary in the Lake of the Woods on the one side and the Mississippi on the other. This division, so unfavorable to southern influence, was voted for by Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, South Carolina being divided; the North did not give one state in its favor; and the motion was lost. It was then agreed that the district should ultimately be divided at least into three states, the states and individuals being unanimous, except that Grayson adhered to his preference of five.*
The cause which arrested the progress of the ordinance of Monroe was a jealousy of the political power of the western states, and a prevailing desire to impede their admission into the union. To Jefferson he explained with accurate foresight the policy toward which congress was drifting. When the inhabitants of the Kaskaskias presented a peti
* Journals of Congress, iv., 662, 663.
tion for the organization of a government over their district, Monroe took part in the answer, that congress had under consideration the plan of a temporary government for their district in which it would manifest a due regard to their interest.* This is the last act of congress relating to the West in which Monroe participated. With the first Monday of the coming November the rule of rotation would exclude him from congress.
During the summer Kean was absent from congress, and his place on the committee was taken by Melancthon Smith + of New York. In September, Monroe and King went on a mission from Congress to the legislature of Pennsylvania, and their places were filled by Henry of Maryland and Dane. The committee with its new members represented the ruling sentiment of the house; and its report, which was made on the nineteenth of September, required of a western state before its admission into the union a population equal to one thirteenth part of the citizens of the thirteen original states according to the last preceding enumeration. Had this report been adopted, and had the decennial census of the population of territories and states alone furnished the rule, Ohio must have waited twenty years longer for admission into the union; Indiana would have been received only after 1850; Illinois only after 1860; Michigan could not have asked admittance till after the census of 1880; and after that census Wisconsin must still have remained a colonial dependency.
The last day of September 1786 was given to the consideration of the report; but before anything was decided the seventh congress expired.
. The new congress, to which Madison and Richard Henry Lee, as well as Grayson and Edward Carrington, were sent by Virginia, had no quorum till February 1787, and then was occupied with preparations for the federal convention and with the late insurrection in Massachusetts. But the necessity of providing for a territorial government was urgent; and near the end of April the committee of the late congress revived
* Journals of Congress, iv., 688, 689.
+ The name of Smith as one of the committee occurs in August 1786. Journale of Congress, iv., 688.
its project of the preceding September. On the ninth of May it was read a second time; the clause which would have indefinitely delayed the admission of a western state was cancelled ; * a new draft of the bill as amended was directed to be transcribed, and its third reading was made the order of the next day, † when of a sudden the further progress of the ordinance was arrested.
Rufus Putnam, of Worcester county, Massachusetts, who had drawn to himself the friendly esteem of the commanderin-chief, and before the breaking up of the army received the commission of brigadier-general, was foremost in promoting a petition to congress of officers and soldiers of the revolution for leave to plant a colony of the veterans of the army between Lake Erie and the Ohio, in townships of six miles square, with large reservations for the ministry and schools.” For himself and his associates he entreated Washington to represent to congress the strength of the grounds on which their petition rested. Their unpaid services in the war had saved the independence and the unity of the land; their settlement would protect the frontiers of the old states against alarms of the sav. ages; their power would give safety along the boundary line on the north ; under their shelter the endless procession of emigrants would take up its march to fill the country from Lake Erie to the Ohio.
With congress while it was at Princeton, and again after its adjournment to Annapolis, Washington exerted every power of which he was master to bring about a speedy decision. The members with whom he conversed acquiesced in the reasonableness of the petition and approved its policy, but they excused their inertness by the want of a cession of the north-western lands.
When, in March 1784, the lands were ceded by Virginia, Rufus Putnam again appeals to Washington : “You are sensible of the necessity as well as the possibility of both officers and soldiers fixing themselves in business somewhere as soon as
* This appears from the erasures on the printed bill, which is still preserved. + Journals of Congress, iv., 747.
# S. P. Hildreth, Pioneer Settlers of Ohio, 88. Walker, 29. Letter of Rufus Putnam, 16 June 1783,
possible; many of them are unable to lie long on their oars ;” but congress did not mind the spur. In the next year, under the land ordinance of Grayson, Rufus Putnam was elected a surveyor of land in the western territory for Massachusetts; and as he could not at once enter on the service, another brigadier-general, Benjamin Tupper of Chesterfield, in the same state, was appointed for the time in his stead.*
Tupper repaired to the West to superintend the work confided to him ; but disorderly Indians prevented the survey; without having advanced farther west than Pittsburgh, he returned home; and, like almost every one who caught glimpses of the West, he returned with a mind filled with the brightness of its promise.
Toward the end of 1785, Samuel Holden Parsons, the son of a clergyman in Lyme, Connecticut, a graduate of Harvard, an early and a wise and resolute patriot, in the war a brigadiergeneral of the regular army, travelled to the West on public business, descended the Ohio as far as its falls, and, full of the idea of a settlement in that western country, wrote, before the year went out, that on his way he had seen no place which pleased him so much for a settlement as the country on the Muskingum.
In the treaty at Fort Stanwix, in 1784, the Six Nations renounced to the United States all claims to the country west of the Ohio. A treaty of January 1785, with the Wyandotte, Delaware, Chippewa, and Ottawa nations, released the country east of the Cuyaloga, and all the lands on the Ohio, south of the line of portages from that river to the Great Miami and the Maumee. On the last day of January 1786, George Rogers Clark, the conqueror of the North-west, Richard Butler, late a colonel in the army, and Samuel Holden Parsons, acting under commissions from the United States, met the Shawnees at the mouth of the Great Miami, and concluded with them a treaty by which they acknowledged the sovereignty of the United States over all their territory as described in the treaty of peace with Great Britain, and for themselves renounced all claim to property in any land east of the main branch of
* Journals of Congress, iv., 520, 527, 547.