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Letter from Lord Dunmore to James Tilghman and Andrew Allen



No˙ 2.

Williamsburg, 24th May, 1774.

GENTLEMEN: Having considered your proposals of a boundary line or lines, to ascertain, for the present, the jurisdiction of the Colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania, and the terms of the Royal grant, I am of opinion that the latter cannot admit of the construction which you give to them, or that it could possibly be the intent of the Crown that the western bounds of your Province should have the very inconvenient, and so difficult to he ascertained shape, as it would have, if, as you say, it were to correspond with the course of the river Delaware; but I think, from the words of the grant, rather that your western boundary should be determined by a meridian line at five degrees of longitude from the river Delaware, to be computed from that point upon it which is at the extent of the forty-second degree of latitude and the line drawn from that point to the aforesaid meridian, is your north bounds; and your south hounds should be a straight line westward from the circle drawn at twelve miles distance from New-Castle, northward and westward unto the beginning of the fortieth degree of latitude, until that straight line westward intersect the meridian above mentioned, which is the limits of longitude mentioned in the Royal grant, and no other, as it appeal' s to me.

Conformably to this, I am willing to agree to a temporary line, that may serve to ascertain the jurisdiction of both Colonies, and quiet the disturbances which subsist, and prevent them in future; but if you are already determined not to depart from the proposals now given in to me, I must inform you that it will be in vain to treat any further upon the subject, as it would be utterly impossible for me, in compliance with my duty, to suspend the jurisdiction of Virginia at Fort Pitt, and the country thereabouts, which you make yourselves, following your own construction of the Royal grant, to be only five or six miles within your limits; and if that should not, but the other which I have given, be the true construction, then Fort Pitt, by the river Delaware running very much eastwardly towards your northern bounds, will probably be at least fifty miles without your limits, which would be a concession, I really think, too great for me to make, whether it be or not for you to ask.

I must also inform you, that I am clearly of opinion, that were it possible I could admit your own construction of the Royal grant, and your own surveys and observations, your ascertaining your claim under the former has been done too late, and your ascertaining your boundary by the latter has consequently been to no purpose; for if the lands described by the Royal grant, at the time of the grant being passed, were clearly within the undoubted limits of his Majesty' s Dominions, which is also a question, yet still Fort Pitt, and the country thereabouts, for want of the


Proprietors of Pennsylvania supporting their claim, and ascertaining their boundary in due time, was suffered to be claimed and possessed by an enemy, from whom it was conquered by his Majesty' s arms, and by whom it was confirmed to his Majesty in a treaty; consequently, therefore, no legal title, as it appears to me, can be set up to any of that territory, but under a grant of the Crown, subsequent to such possession, conquest, &c.

As to your idea of the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania having been first extended and exercised in that part of the country: it was indeed the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania having been extended and exercised, not only there where you have extended your claims, but even to a hundred miles beyond any that you have yet pretended to, that has given occasion to the inhabitants over whom your jurisdiction was exercised, and who think themselves, according to the general sense of Virginia, subject to the jurisdiction only of the latter, to apply to this Government for protection and redress, which this Government, in duty, could not refuse them, as far as its legal powers extend. But I am so far from thinking, as you suggest, that the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania having been first extended and exercised in that country, is a reason that should induce the Government of Virginia to suspend its jurisdiction there, that in my opinion the latter is entitled to some apology from the former for attempting a measure without the participation that ought to have the sanction of both, as his Majesty had not given his to it.

I mention not these circumstances for the purpose of engaging in a dispute with the Proprietors of Pennsylvania, or of throwing obstacles in the way of an accommodation which I am sensible it is the interest of both Colonies, and the duty of the Governours of them, to facilitate; but with the design of making it appear that I have not, upon very slight grounds, rejected proposals for settling the disputes and differences subsisting between the two Colonies, and which require no less than that every thing which is contended for (depending on such a variety of contingencies) on the part of Pennsylvania, should be given up on the part of Virginia immediately.

I cannot but think that you entertain an erroneous opinion of the boundaries of your Province, as described in the Royal grants, but even if not, that your proposals are unreasonable, and that the sincerity of your desire to settle all disputes between Pennsylvania and Virginia would appear less doubtful, if you had observed in your proposals an equitable regard to the pretensions of this Government, especially as nothing thereby can prejudice the legal title of your Government: therefore, unless you are authorized to agree to a plan that favours as much the sentiments of this, as of your own Government, I see no accommodation that can be entered into previous to his Majesty' s decision, which I shall not fail to join my application for the obtaining as soon as possible.

I am, gentlemen, your most obedient humble servant,


James Tilghman and Andrew Allen, Esquires.