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Colony of Virgina, of which we cannot help thinking ourselves still a part, and request your kind interposition in our behalf that we may not suffer under the rigorous demands and impositions of the gentlemen styling themselves proprietors."! The petition closes with the request that, should the case be thought to come more properly before "the General Congress," the Convention would instruct the Virginia delegates "to espouse it as the cause of the colony."
Meanwhile the Transylvania company was exercising the executive power in their little commonwealth. John Wil. liams, a member of the company, wrote from Harrodsburg, March 3rd, 1776, that there had been "some disturbances and dissatisfaction among the people" (referring evidently to what had called out the above petition), but "they were trifling and hardly worth mentioning." Writs of election were issued for another "Convention" to sit at Harrodsburg, April 10th, and this time it was intended that the inhabitants of Powell's Valley should elect delegates also. But some of the Transylvanians feared that "the proprietors would wish to establish some laws which might operate to their disadvantage," and requested that the “Convention" might be postponed until a "few men of better abilitys come among them to assist in making such laws. The proprietors assented to this on their promising faithfully to observe the laws passed at Boonesborough the year before, and the election was postponed. It is not improbable that this postponement was desired so as to await the return of George Rogers Clark, who had gone to Virginia in the previous fall. While there he sounded public opinion on the Transylvania affair and made some interesting plans. He tells them in his memoir as fol. lows:- "While in Virginia I found there was various op14 Amer. Archives, VI., 1528; Collin's Kentucky, II., 510. : John Williams to Col. J. Martin. Draper Colls., Clark MSS., XVI., p. 54. • Ibid. * Ibid.
pinions Respecting Henderson Claim. many thought it god, others douted whether or not Virginia could with propriety have any pretentions to the Cuntry.
this was what I wanted to know. I immediately fixed on my plans, that of assembling the people, get them to elect deputies and send them to the assembly of Virginia, and treat with them Respecting the Cuntry. If Valuable Conditions was procured, to declare ourselves Citizens of the state; otherways Establish an Independant Government, and by giv. ing away great part of the Lands and disposing of the Remainder otherways we could not only gain great numbers of Inhabitants, but in good measure protect them to carry this scheam into effect." i
Returning west in the spring of 1776, Clark proceeded with his plan. He called the people to a general meeting at Harrodsburg, June 6th, without announcing its object. It happened that Clark himself was unable to reach Har. rodsburg until evening of the appointed day. The people, according to Clark's account, had been in confusion for some time, but at length had concluded that the object of the meeting was to elect delegates to the Virginia Assembly and draw up a petition asking that they be received into that body, and that the Transylvania settlements be organ. ized into a county of Virginia. Clark found the election of delegates too far advanced to change to the principle of deputies with authority from the people to treat with another power. Clark himself, and J. G. Jones were elected delegates to the Virginia Assembly, and in a few days set out for Williamsburg. They carried with them “The
" Humble Petition of the Inhabitants of Kentucke (or Louisa) River on the Western parts of Fincastle County,"3 which made complaints against Henderson and Company similar to
1 Clark's Memoir. The original document is in Draper Colls., Clark MSS., XLVII., pp. 1 et seq. I have copied from it as he wrote it, merely adding punctuation. · Clark's Memoir, p. 2. 3 This petition may be found in Draper Colls., MSS., XIV., p. 148. On p. 154, ibid., is "The Humble Petition of the committee of West Fincastle of the Colony of Virginia, etc." Both petitions are to the same purpose.
those of the former petition, and expressed the hope that Clark and Jones would be received as delegates in the Assembly.
Before reaching Williamsburg, the delegates learned that the Assembly had adjourned, Jones turned back, but Clark kept on hoping to get some powder from the Virginia authorities for use in Kentucke.” Governor Henry "appeared much disposed to favour the Kentuckyins," but the council giving him a rather doubtful reception, Clark returned the order for 500 pounds of powder which was to be merely loaned" as to Friends in distress," and decided to return home and organize an independent government.' He told the Council that he was sorry to find that we should have to seek protection elsewhere, which I did not doubt of getting."? This threat alarmed the Council, and
. the powder was at once given outright and even transported freely as far as Pittsburg. 3
The Virginia Assembly met in the fall. Clark and Jones were refused seats, probably because of their irregular election before the organization of Kentucky County. Colonel Richard Henderson was there working vigorously to prevent such an organization. But in spite of this and other opposition, a bill was finally passed to organize the new county of Kentucky. December 21, 1776, the Council ordered that commissions be issued to county officers for Kentucky."
So a large part of "the colony of Transylvania" became peaceably incorporated into the state of Virginia. After
i Clark's Memoir, p. 7. a Ibid. Where Clark thought of seeking protection is not clear. There is an interesting correspondence on the subject between William Wirt Henry and L. C. Draper (Clark MSS., XVI., pp. 91-94) in which the former thinks Clark intended to app to the Spaniards, while Draper thinks that nothing more is meant than a threat to set up an independent government. ' Ibid. • A member from Fincastle County was also much opposed, as he wished Kentucky to be annexed to his own county. Clark's Memoir, p. 7.
• Journal of the Va. Council, Dec. 21, 1776.– Draper's manuscript copy in Clark MSS., XVIII., p. 13.
struggling for nearly two years, Richard Henderson suc. ceeded in getting for his Company a large compensatory grant on the Ohio and Green rivers.' North Carolina ap. propriated the remainder of what was considered the Hen. derson purchase, giving the company a grant in Powell's Valley; "and thus vanished the golden dream of Richard Henderson and Company."?
If a different course had been followed - the course which Clark planned to follow in case the settlements had declared their independence, viz.: giving away much of the land and selling the rest at a low figure, besides allowing the people a more liberal government - then the self- . interest of settlers would probably have led them to con. tinue that support of the proprietors and their measures which they seem to have given at first. The absence of marked opposition from the Virginia patriots to an independent and liberally governed Transylvania is noticeable. The framers of Virginia's first constitution plainly contemplated the erection of a new government within their char. ter limits west of them. The state government even expressed grave doubts as to whether the Assembly would be willing to receive Kentucky,' whose people were freely offering themselves to Virginia. This seeming indifference on the part of Virginia would, if continued, have materially aided the Transylvanians in maintaining independence, if they had persisted in it. An independent Transylvania, or an independent Kentucky led by George Rogers Clark, during the Revolutionary War, might have made a marked difference in subsequent American history, particularly if the colony had allied itself with Spain, or adhered to Great Britain in the struggle. In either case the United States would probably have been limited at the peace to the territory east of the Alleghany mountains. Had the country not been united to Virginia as it was, its history would most likely have been similar to that of Vermont - really much in sympathy with the American cause and continually knocking at the doors of Congress for admission to the Confederacy; but, if not getting it, taking position as à quasi independent and sovereign state, holding aloof, and ready to join with which ever side should come out victor in the contest.'
1 Littell's Laws of Kentucky, III., 587; Hening, IX., 571.
9 Nathaniel Hart (whose father was a member of the Company) to Mann Bu tlor. October, 1833. Draper Colls., Kentucky MSS., II.
3 Va. Const. of 1776. Hough's Am. Const., I., 430; Poore's Constitutions, II., 1912