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Thus far we have had to do with schemes for new British colonies. With the Declaration of Independence the idea of rew colonies gives place to that of new states. The change was, however, by no means a sharply defined one. One attempt to set up a new government began probably before American independence was declared. It involved the region about the head-waters of the Ohio, which was claimed by both Pennsylvania and Virginia, and incorporated by the latter as a part of West Augusta county. The scheme was set on foot in June or the beginning of July, 1776, by David Rogers, (who was a member of the Virginia Assembly), and others. Certain definite boundaries were proposed and a memorial exhibited to several persons at Pittsburg. The people were directed to "choose men to meet and Consult whither application should be made to Congress for laying of the country within the said limits into a new Government or whether they would not immediately proceed to Colonize themselves by their own authority, and send Delegates to Congress to represent them.
Another proposition was that the people won the Western Waters" should decide whither a "joint Petition of the Inhabitants" should be presented to Congress "praying their Interposition in settling the Disputes which have occasioned
1 Memorial of the Committee of West Augusta to the Va. House of Delegates.-Va. Senate Journal, Oct. 30, 1776. MS. copy in Draper Colls., “Pa., N. Y., Va., O., Ky., and Tenn. Papers," IV., 32.
* Ibid. Among the “ Yeates Papers," owned by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, there is a draft of this memorial, but in certain particulars it differs from the one apparently presented to the Virginia House of Delegate.
our Unhappiness" or whether they should take things into their own hands "by our immediately colonizing ourselv[es] by our own Authority, and sending our Delegates to the said Congress to represent us as the fourteenth Link in the American Chain."! It was "recommended to the different Districts on the Western Waters to meet....and give their free Voice which of these Modes is most agreeable, and it is hoped that the Minority will generously give up to the Majority; and if a Majority is found in Favour of the former Mode all will sign the said Petition, and if a Majority is found in Favour of the latter that all will acquiesce then and there in Choice of two Members for a Convention to be held at Becket's Fort four Days after such Election for the express Purpose of forming a new Mode of Government for the intended new Colony Choosing two Members to represent us in Congress, Laying out the said Colony in Counties, and issuing their Summon's for calling an Election of legislative & Executive Officers agreeable to the Plan of Government so formed."?
Whether this meeting was ever held we do not know. In July, Rogers and others refused to take an oath prescribed by the Virginia convention and "persisted in using all their influence to make proselytes to their favorite scheme of a new Government." By the first of August a petition to
. Congress was in circulation. That document pointed out the evils to which the petitioners were subjected on ac. count of the conflicting claims of Pennsylvania and Vir. gipia to jurisdiction over them, and the "embarrassing and perplexing" land claims of George Croghan, and the Indi. ana and Vandalia companies. The petitioners say they are "neither Politicians nor Orators, but "are at least a rational and Social People. They have "emigrated from
1 MS. copy in possession of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
Ibid, • Memorial of the Committee of West Augusta.
4 Crumrine (Hist. of Wash, Co., Pa., p. 187) proves this date from a letter of Jasper Yeates to James Wilson, July, 1776.
almost every Province of America." but “having imbibed the highest and most extensive Ideas of Liberty," they "will with Difficulty Submit to the being annexed to or Subjugated by Terms synonimous to them) any one of those Provinces, much less the being partitioned or parcelled out among them." They protest that they will not "Suffer themselves, who might be the happiest & perhaps not the least useful Part of the American Confederacy as forming a secure, extensive & Effectual Frontier and Barrier against the Incursions, Ravages & Depredations of the Western Savages, to be Enslaved by any set of Proprietary or other Claimants. or arbitrarily deprived and robbed of those Lands & that Country to which by the Laws of Nature & of Nations they are entitled as first Occupants, . . . whilst the Rest of their Countrymen softened by Ease, enervated by Affluence & Luxurious Plenty, & unaccustomed to Fatigues, Hardships, Difficulties or Dangers, are bravely contending for and exerting themselves on Behalf of a Consti tutional, natural, rational & social Liberty." They contend that "no Country or People can be Either rich, flourishing, happy or free .. .. .. whilst annexed to or dependent on any Province, whose Seat of Government is those of Pennsylvania & Virginia, four or five hundred Miles distant, and separated by a vast, extensive & almost impassible Tract of Mountains, by Nature itself formed and pointed out as a Boundary between this Country and those below it.”
The memorialists request finally, "that the said Country be constituted, declared and acknowledged a separate, distinct & independent Province & Government, by the Title & under the Name of The Province & Government of Westsylvania', be impowered & enabled to form such Laws and Regulations & such a System of Polity & Government, as is best adapted & most agreeable to the peculiar Neces sities, local Circumstances & Situation thereof, and its Inhabitants invested with every other Power, Right, Privi
lege & Immunity, vested or to be vested in the other
"The Memorial of the Inhabitants of the Country West of the Allegheney Mountains."? They claimed that at least 25,000 families had settled within the above boundar. ies since 1768. But in spite of these numbers and the arguments of the petitioners Congress gave them no encour. agement. Indeed there is no evidence that Congress even considered the petition.
But before the year was out another proposition for a new western state on its way to Congress. Silas Deane, writing from Paris Dec. 1, 1776, to the Secret Committee of Congress, made suggestions about the western lands. He thought the tract between the Ohio, Mississippi, and the Great Lakes might, if managed properly, be made to defray the whole expense of the war. In order to enhance its value a new government should, he suggested, be planted "at the mouth of the Ohio, between that and the Mississippi.". A grant "equal to two hundred miles square" should be given “to a company formed indiscriminately of Europeans and Americans, which com. pany should form a distinct state, confederated with and
1 The State Historical Society of Wisconsin has a complete copy of this petition