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Letter from Alexander Martin to William Blount et al.
Martin, Alexander, 1740-1807
January 28, 1783
Volume 16, Pages 732-734

GOV. MARTIN TO THE HONBL. THE DELEGATES IN CONGRESS.
[From Executive Letter Book.]

Guilford, January 28th, 1783.

Gentlemen:

I have been duly favoured with the Letters of Doctor Williamson and Mr. Blount to the 10th of December, those sent by Mr. Sitgreaves only came to hand at Hillsborough last week covering a Letter from General Washington to General Greene which we sent on by a careful hand.

I have the mortification to inform you that notwithstanding my earnest solicitations to induce the General Assembly to convene the first of this Instant, they did not, which prevented me from laying before them the several resolutions of Congress, the many and pressing Letters from the Financier and their other Ministers together with your Correspondence which demanded their immediate attention which now must be postponed until the annual meeting.

The poverty of some of the Members is urged as the excuse, which perhaps is too true.

I have hitherto declined saying anything in answer to Messrs. Williamson and Blount on the great Question that has been agitated in Congress, & which they inform me will be taken up again respecting the vacant back Lands of those States claiming & holding the same, until I could call the attention of the Assembly to that important subject; and obtain for you their instructions in this

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particular. I make no doubt you will use your influence to postpone the discussion of that matter as long as possible, at least until you can have the sense of the Legislature thereon. I can only suggest as a private Citizen, that it will not be our interest or policy to make a cession of our Western Lands on any terms yet proposed by Congress as an equivalent; the preliminaries mentioned in the Letter of 22d October last, in my opinion will be purchasing at an extravagant price that Justice Congress owes of right to every State in the Union. Of right the expence our Indian Expeditions should pass to acct. in our Quota of Continentel expences. Of right the sundry accts. of every State should be liquidated and its claims fully established, so that their several Quotas may be fixed of the debt already contracted or to be contracted whether a cession of Lands takes place or not, and should any separate State be Erected on the ceded Lands, part of the Public debt should be transferred to such State according to the Valuation of the Land it contains. This would be no great favour, as it would be but a matter of right & Justice.

The immediate object of the Minor States claiming part of your back Lands was to provide settlements for their Soldiery at the end of war. This might be done without granting Lands to Congress. A recommendation of Congress being made to those States holding vacant Lands to make provision for the Army according to the the proportion of Land & men, I make no doubt would have the desired effect. Our Legislature last Session was about to show the generous example with regard to the Maryland and Delaware Lines, had an application passed through the proper channel.

To insist that the State should cede her vacant Lands which are daily settling with numerous Inhabitants, and from which she expects to derive considerable advantages, which is not the case of those large Monopolies of Land the evil complained of, is the same as to urge an Individual to give up to a stranger without compensation part of his Land he is daily improving with husbandmen & husbandry to his own emolument and that of his family.

This is in short endeavouring to carry into effect a vile Agrarian Law the Romans antiently made in vain respecting their conquered Land; which tho’ often attempted in Democracies as a principal object to obtain equality among Citizens could never be of any duration

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where industry, commerce, and alienation of property had existence.

I shall endeavour to obtain an account of What Continental Paper Money is collected in the Hands of the Treasurers, and transmit the same to you and the Financier. I shall also caution the Legislature of the Speculation you suggest intended to be made of that Article by some of the Northern States.

Respecting Foreign Loans, I perfectly agree with you, that it is much easier to pay a Guinea at the close of the war, than a Dollar at present, from the low ebb of Commerce and the great scarcity of Specie among us. But I beg leave to recommend that the loan be moderate, that we be not laid under too much obligation to our Allies, that we be not distressed in the payment or give cause of a future rupture with them in case of failure.

You will please to apologize to Mr. Morris for not writing to him, as our Assembly have not met to take up the subject matter of his requisitions, I have nothing to say further to that Gentleman, than what I have already written until the anniversary meeting in April.

I am Gentlemen,
ALEX. MARTIN.