On the 2d of December I returned hither from Philadelphia; and I have now set down to give you an account of my embassy, which you will be pleased to communicate to the other gentlemen, our co-partners, when you have an opportunity. I waited for Messrs. Hooper and Hewes a day and a half at Richmond, but they were detained by rainy weather for several days, so that they did not overtake me till I was near Philadelphia, where I was kept two days by heavy rain, though they had it dry where they were. It was the 22d day of October when we arrived at Philadelphia. In a few days they introduced me to several of the Congress gentlemen, among the first of whom were, accidentally, the famous Samuel and John Adams; and as I found their opinion friendly to our new Colony, I showed them our map, explained to them the advantage of our situation, &c., &c. They entered seriously into the matter, and seemed to think favourably of the whole; but the difficulty that occurred to us soon appeared to them. “We have petitioned and addressed the King,” said they, “and have entreated him to point out some mode of accommodation. There seems to be an impropriety in embarrassing our reconciliation with anything new; and the taking under our protection a body of people who have acted in defiance of the King's proclamations, will be looked on as a confirmation of that independent spirit with which we are daily reproached.” I then showed them our memorial, to convince them that we did not pretend to throw off our allegiance to the King, but intended to acknowledge his Sovereignty whenever he should think us worthy of his regard. They were pleased with our memorial, and thought it very proper; but another difficulty occurred. By looking at the map they observed that we were within the Virginia Charter. I then told them of the fixing their boundaries, what had passed at Richmond in March last, and that I had reason to believe the Virginians would not oppose us; however, they advised me to sound the Virginians, as they would not choose to do anything in it without their consent. All the Delegates were, at that time, so
They seemed to waive the argument concerning the right of property; but Mr Jefferson acknowledged, that in his opinion, our Colony could be no loss to the Virginians, if properly united to them; and said, that if his advice was followed, all the use they should make of their Charter would be, to prevent any arbitrary or oppressive Government to be established within the boundaries of it; and that it was his wish to see a free Government established at the back of theirs, properly united with them; and that it should extend Westward to the Mississippi, and on each side of the Ohio, to their Charter line, But he would not consent that we should be acknowledged by the Congress, until it had the approbation of
This was the substance of our conference, with which I acquainted our good friends, Messrs Hooper and Hewes, who joined me in opinion that I should not push the matter further; and they hinted to me, that, considering the present very critical situation of affairs, they thought it was better for us to be unconnected with them. These gentlemen acted a most friendly part all along, and gave a favourable account of our proceedings. Indeed I think the Company under great obligations to them, and I hope they will take it under their consideration. I was frequently with parties of the Delegates, who, in general think favourably of our enterprise.
All the wise ones of them, with whom I conversed on the subject, are clear in opinion that the property of the lands are vested in us by the Indian grant; but some of them think, that by the common law of England, and by the common usage in America, the sovereignty is in the King, agreeable to a famous law opinion, of which I was so fortunate as to procure a copy. The suffering traders, and others, at the end of last war, obtained a large tract of land from the Six Nations, and other Indians. They formed themselves into a company, (called, I believe, the Ohio,) and petitioned the King for a patent, and desired to be erected into a Government. His Majesty laid their petition before Lord Chancellor Camden and Mr Charles Yorke, then Attorney-General, and afterwards Chancellor. Their opinion follows:
“In respect to such places as have been, or shall be acquired by treaty or grant from any of the Indian Princes or Governments, your Majesty's letters patent are not necessary; the property of the soil vested in the grantee by the Indian grants, subject only to your Majesty's right of Sovereignty over the settlements, as English settlements, and over the inhabitants as English subjects, who carry with them your Majesty's laws wherever they form Colonies, and receive your Majesty's protection by virtue of your Royal charters.” After an opinion so favourable for them, it is amazing that this Company never attempted to form a settlement, unless they could have procured a charter; with the hopes of which, it seems, they were flattered, from time to time. However our example has roused them, I am told, and they are now setting up for our rivals.
I was several times with Mr Deane of Connecticut, the gentleman of whom Mr Hooper told you, when here. He says he will send some people to see our country; and if their report be favourable, he thinks many Connecticut people will join us.
This gentleman is a scholar, and a man of sense and enterprise, and rich; and I am apt to believe, has some thoughts of heading a party of Connecticut adventurers, providing things can be made agreeable to him. He is reckoned a good man and much esteemed in Congress; but he is an enthusiast in liberty, and will have nothing to do with us unless he is pleased with our form of Government, He is a great admirer of the Connecticut Constitution, which he recommended to our consideration, and was so good as to favour me with a long letter on that subject, a copy of which is enclosed. You would be amazed to see how much in earnest all these speculative gentlemen are about the plan to be adopted by the Transylvanians. They entreat, they pray, that we may make it a free Government, and beg that no mercenary or ambitious views in the Proprietors may prevent it. Quit-rents, they say, is a mark of vassalage, and hope they shall not be established in Transylvania. They even threaten us with their opposition, if we do not act upon liberal principles when we have it so much in our power to render ourselves immortal. Many of them advised a law against Negroes.
Enclosed I send you a copy of a sketch by John Adams which I had from Richard Henry Lee.