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Letter from William Sharpe to Richard Caswell
Sharpe, William, 1742-1818
November 04, 1779
Volume 14, Pages 216-219

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Philadelphia, Nov. 4th, 1779.


We have the honor of sending enclosed to your Excellency a Copy of Sundry Acts of Congress, in which we conceive the State

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over which you preside and that we have the honor to represent in Congress is both directly and indirectly interested, and on which we beg leave to make a few remarks.

The principle on which the Indiana Company found their memorial is that the Territory which they claim is not within nor subject to the jurisdiction of either of the States, but to the whole United States, in Congress Assembled, a principle which we humbly conceive by no means admissible, it being against one of the principles of the general Union. This controversy is not between two States, but between one State and individuals; therefore we are of opinion that Congress, more especially in an unconfederated State, has not jurisdiction, and if Congress has no jurisdiction, consequently it was an improper subject for their deliberation, which was the foundation of the objection against committing it to a special Committee; nevertheless you may see that was overruled by a Majority on the 14th of September last. Two or three States objecting to ballot for a Committee was the reason why that subject lay dormant until the 8th of October, at which time a Committee was appointed with an instruction to report first on the question respecting the jurisdiction of Congress, it being thought by some as a proper and necessary preliminary. You will please to observe how cautiously that matter was evaded in the committee's report, which brought on the Question for recommitment in order that the Committee should pursue the direction of Congress. We need only refer you to the journal of that day, viz., the 29th Oct., for the further explanation of the report of the Committee. On the next day, you may observe, to cut the matter short, a set of propositions were moved instead of the report, and were found to be in order, as appears by the Journal. On the whole, it appears to us that there are great jealousies, particularly respecting Virginia's extensive claim of Territory, and generally of the other States under similar circumstances. We are induced to believe that with many the question respecting the justice or injustice of the claims of the Indiana and Vandalia Company is not so much in view as that of laying down some principle or pursuing such a line of conduct as may be most likely to obtain the main object, namely, that Congress shall have the disposal of all the unappropriated lands on the Western frontiers of these States, and that such lands may become the common property of the

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whole. We believe that at present the representatives of some States do not wish Maryland to confederate, hoping that by some means or other those States who claim the back lands may be prevailed on to surrender them.

According to present appearances New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut, who formerly insisted strenuously on their claim to lands westerly, are indifferent about them.

The Legislature of Maryland, at their last Session, advised their Constituents to give them explicit instructions on the subject of confederation against the Session which is now sitting. What effect that measure will produce is not yet known to us. These things we think our indispensable duty to communicate through your Excellency to the Legislature of our State as a subject worthy their serious attention, and we beg leave to reiterate our wishes that their Delegates in Congress may be seconded by being furnished with explicit instructions on that subject, as we apprehend it is very probable it may yet be a subject of serious debate in Congress. In the mean time we shall oppose to the utmost of our power every measure which appears calculated to injure our claim or violate the Charter in which our State has pointed out our Territorial Rights, and over which we have declared the right of our Citizens in Sovereignty.

The good sense of our Legislature will give due weight to many reasons which they will conceive induced Congress to recommend it to Virginia to reconsider their late Act of Assembly for opening their land office.

In our last we enclosed a Copy of the debit of our State in the Auditor General's Office in which there was Sundry errors. We have now the honor of enclosing another Copy, together with a letter from Mr. Nourse to Mr. Sharpe explanatory of that matter.

We have the pleasure to congratulate your Excellency on the evacuation of Rhode Island by the Enemy on Monday, the 25th Ulto.

With the highest esteem and consideration,
We have the honor to be,
Your Excellency's Mo. ob. huml. Serv't,
Gov. Caswell.

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P. S. Mr. Hewes has been confined to bed with sickness five days past, and his situation is not very promising.