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Answer of Governour Penn, to the Earl of Dunmore


The Governor having taken the foregoing letter into consideration, with the advice of the Council, wrote a letter this day to the Earl of Dunmore, in answer thereto, and sent the same by express, which letter follows in these words, viz:

Philadelphia, 31st March, 1774.

MY LORD: I was favoured with yours of the third of this month by express, which arrived when several of the gentlemen of the Council were out of town, and it being also my rule to consult the Council upon all occasions of a


public nature, I could not possibly give your Lordship' s letter an answer by the return of your messenger, who stayed but a very short time in town. I am sorry the papers I enclosed you had not the desired effect. I never expected they would be taken as decisive of the boundaries of Pennsylvania, as conclusive upon your Government, but I had reason to hope they contained such information as would show at least a very strong probability that Pittsburg, the place of dispute, was within this Province, and not subject to the Government of Virginia, and from them I concluded you would be convinced of the impropriety of a step which I conceived must have been taken upon a supposition that that place was certainly beyond our limits. But I perceive your Lordship hath taken up an opinion that it is not material whether it be within our charter bounds or not, and that the right of the proprietors of Pennsylvania to the country about Pittsburg must be founded on better authority than the Royal grant! And as your Lordship seems to imagine yourself supported in this sentiment by our own principles in Lord Camden' s


opinion upon our case with Connecticut, the transactions of the late war, and the declarations of our Assembly some time ago, I will take the liberty of endeavouring to set you right in some matters which you do not seem to be fully informed of, being persuaded that if I can be so happy as to place them in a different point of light from what you have heretofore viewed them in, you will be candid enough to change your sentiments.

In the year 1752, the Proprietors of Pennsylvania, understanding that the Government of Virginia were about to erect forts upon the Ohio, in order to repel the encroachments of the French on the properties of the subjects of his Britanic Majesty, they instructed their then Governor, Mr˙ Hamilton, to assist in any measures of that sort, taking an acknowledgment from the Governor of Virginia that such settlement should not be made use of to prejudice their right to that country, and at the same time allowed him to give assurances that the people should enjoy their lands they bona fide settled on the common quit rent. Of this instruction Mr˙ Hamilton not long after gave notice to Governor Dinwiddie.


In the year 1754, Mr˙ Dinwiddie came to a resolution of raising men and building forts to the westward, in order to repel the invasions of the French. He had fixed upon the forks of Monongahela as a proper situation for one of these forts, supposing it to be on his Majesty' s lands, and issued a proclamation, expressing his purpose of erecting a fort at that place, and inviting the people to enlist in his Majesty' s service against the French; and as an encouragement, promising that the quantity of two hundred thousand acres of land should be laid out and divided amongst the adventurers, when the service should be at an end; one hundred thousand acres of which to be laid out adjoining the fort, and the other one hundred thousand acres on the Ohio.

Upon the appearance of this proclamation Mr˙ Hamilton wrote to Governor Dinwiddie, the 13th March, 1754, reminding him of his former intimation respecting these lands, and enclosing an abstract of the Proprietaries' instructions, and also requesting from him such an acknowledgment as the Proprietaries expected; to which Mr˙ Dinwiddie, in his letter of the 21st March, 1754, answers:


"Your private letter of the 13th current, I have duly received, and am much misled by our Surveyors if the forks of Monongahela be within the limits of your Proprietaries grant. I have for some time wrote home to have the line run, to have the boundaries properly known, that I may be able to appoint Magistrates on the Ohio, (if in this Government) to keep the traders and others in good order, and I presume soon there will be Commissioners appointed for that service. In the mean time, that no hindrance may be given to our intended expedition, it is highly reasonable, if these lands are in your Proprietor' s grant, that the settlers should pay the quit rent to Mr˙ Penn, and not to his Majesty; and, therefore, as much as lies in my power, I agree thereto, after the time granted by my proclamation, to be clear of quit rent, ceases."

From this correspondence between the Governors of Virginia and Pennsylvania, it appears beyond a doubt, that the terms upon which forts were built, and settlements made in that country, by the Government of Virginia, were well understood, and the rights of Pennsylvania carefully guarded; and these transactions entirely exclude the idea of that kind of settlement, or acquiescence and agreement of which Lord Camden speaks, and which are the only principles in his opinion from which your Lordship can draw any conclusions in favour of the right of Virginia.

From this view of the matter I flatter myself your Lordship will readily perceive that the principles of Lord Camden' s opinion do not at all apply to the present case. As to the opinion of our Assemblies, on which you seem also to rely, the case is shortly as follows: When Governor Dinwiddie, resolved to erect forts on the waters of the Ohio, and to carry an expedition against the French, who had fortified themselves in several parts of the country to the westward, he applied to Governor Hamilton to procure him the assistance of this Province. Unfortunately at this time there was no very good understanding between the Government and the Assembly, and when Mr˙ Hamilton laid Mr˙ Dinwiddie' s requisition before them they declined complying with it, and urged for reasons, that, by the Royal orders to the several Governors, they were not to act as principals out of their own Governments. That they (the Assembly) would not presume to determine upon the limits of the Province; and that by the papers and evidences sent down to them, and referred to by the Governor, the limits of the Province had not been clearly ascertained to their satisfaction.

It is to be observed, that at this time there had been no real mensurations from Delaware to the westward, except the temporary line between this Province and Maryland, which extends only one hundred and forty-four miles from Delaware. From this line, and from sundry informations of Indian traders, founded on computed distances, and mountainous and crooked roads, Mr˙ Hamilton concluded that the French forts were considerably within this Province, and it hath since appeared with certainty that the fact was so, though the Assembly were not satisfied with those proofs. And it appears, by a report of a Committee of Assembly, appointed to examine those evidences, that they laid no great stress upon the opinions of traders founded on computed distances.

Upon the whole I cannot find that the Assembly ever made any thing like formal declarations "that Pittsburg was not within this Government," but that they rather declined making any determination upon the extent of the Province. But if their declarations had been ever so formal or positive, I cannot conceive how any proceedings of theirs could affect the state of the Province, controul the jurisdiction, or prejudice the rights of the proprietors.

Your Lordship is pleased to say: "With respect to the right of this Colony to that country, the transactions of the late war sufficiently show what was ever the sense of the Government of Virginia with regard to it." I do not know to what particular transactions you allude, nor can I apprehend upon what principle the sense of the Government of Virginia can prejudice the right of Pennsylvania, especially when the Governor of this Province was so far from concurring in any such sense, that he took the most effectual measures to guard against any conclusions which might be drawn from it; and I may say, with


the strictest truth, that the Government of Virginia, with great justice, concurred in this precaution.

Upon the whole, then, my Lord, I hope the papers I heretofore had the honour of sending you, when properly attended to, will satisfy you that Pittsburg is at least probably within the charter limits of this Province; and I flatter myself that what I have now urged will be sufficient to convince you that nothing can be inferred from the transactions of the late war, the correspondence between the Governors of the two Provinces, the proceedings of our Assembly, or the principles of Lord Camden' s opinion, to contract the extent of our charter bounds, or establish the right of Virginia to any part of this Province. I therefore still hope that your Lordship will, upon a review of the subject, be induced to defer attempting to extend the jurisdiction of Virginia within the bounds of this Province, and thereby avoid the occasions of disturbances and dissentions amongst his Majesty' s subjects, which will probably ensue from such a step, however prudent and cautious the Magistrates on each side may be inclined to be, and the rather, as a petition for a commission to run out and mark the boundaries between us is now depending before his Majesty. And to prevent the setting up claims, and making conclusions of right by the Government of Virginia, from the circumstances of settlement on the one side, and non-claim on the other, I must take this opportunity of notifying to your Lordship that the Proprietaries of Pennsylvania do claim, by their said petition, as part of their Province of Pennsylvania, all the lands lying west of a south line, to be drawn from Dixon and Mason' s line, as it is commonly called, at the westernmost part of the Province of Maryland to the beginning of the fortieth degree of north latitude, to the extent of five degrees of longitude from the river Delaware; and I must request your Lordship will neither grant lands, nor exercise the Government of Virginia within those limits, till his Majesty' s pleasure be known.

I am truly concerned that you should think the commitment of Mr˙ Conolly so great an insult on the authority of the Government of Virginia, as nothing less than Mr˙ St˙ Clair' s dismission from his offices can repair. The lands in the neighbourhood of Pittsburg were surveyed for the Proprietaries of Pennsylvania early in the year 1769, and a very rapid settlement under this Government soon took place, and Magistrates were appointed by this Government to act there in the beginning of 1771, who have ever since administered justice without any interposition of the Government of Virginia till the present affair. It therefore could not fail of being both surprising and alarming that Mr˙ Conolly should appear to act on that stage under a commission from Virginia, before any intimation of claim or right was ever notified to this Government. The advertisement of Mr˙Conolly had a strong tendency to raise disturbances, and occasion a breach of the public peace, in a part of the country where the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania hath been exercised without objection, and therefore Mr˙ St˙ Clair thought himself bound, as a good Magistrate, to take a legal notice of Mr˙ Conolly.

Mr˙ St˙ Clair is a gentleman who for a long time had the honour of serving his Majesty in the regulars with reputation, and in every station of life has preserved the character of a very honest worthy man; and though perhaps I should not, without first expostulating with you on the subject, have directed him to take that step, yet you must excuse my not complying with your Lordship' s requisition of stripping him, on this occasion, of his offices and livelihood, which you will allow me to think not only unreasonable, but somewhat dictatorial.

I should be extremely concerned that any misunderstanding should take place between this Government and that of Virginia. I shall carefully avoid every occasion of it, and shall always be ready to join you in the proper measures to prevent so disagreeable an incident, yet I cannot prevail on myself to accede in the manner you require, to a claim which I esteem, and which I think must appear to every body else to be altogether groundless.

I am your Lordship' s obedient humble servant,


To the Right Honorable Earl of Dunmore, Governor and Commander-in-chief of his Majesty' s Province of Virginia, Williamsburg.