THE LIFE OF RUFUS PUTNAM
PART II, Chapter II - PRELIMINARIES TO THE SETTLEMENT OF THE OHIO
James Russel Lowell says: "The only thing a New Englander was ever locked out of was the jails." If this be true, it would not be expected that he would long remain indifferent to the occupation of the fair domain beyond the Ohio. But if a New Englander does hold himself in readiness to undertake an enterprise, he is shrewd enough to wait until there seems to be a promise of success as the result of his efforts. There were many difficulties to be overcome before the new Canaan could be safely entered and occupied. These obstructions were removed one by one. One of the essentials was provision for a government. Congress took a step in that direction in 1784. A committee was appointed to draft a constitution for the government of the territory northwest of the Ohio. Thomas Jefferson was chairman of that committee. A clause contained therein prohibited slavery after the year 1800. Until then it was, of course, to be allowed. Although to a great extent this constitution was inoperative, it remained nominally in force until the ordinance of 1787 was passed. The principal result from the ordinance of 1784 was that it prepared the for the legislation of 1786. In that year an act was passed which provided for the appointment of surveyors who should, under the direction of the geographer, proceed to the work of dividing the territory into townships of six miles square, by lines running due north and south, and by others crossing at right angles as near as may be, unless when the boundaries of the late Indian purchase may render the same impracticable. "Each surveyor was to be allowed pay for his services at the rate of two dollars for every mile in length he should run, including wages of chain carriers, markers and all expenses. It was prescribed that the first line running north and south, as aforesaid, should begin on the Ohio river at a point due north from the western boundary of a line which had been run at the southern boundary of Pennsylvania, and that the first line running west should begin at the same point and extend throughout the whole territory. The ordinance instructed the geographer to designate the townships or portional parts of townships by numbers, progressively from south to north, beginning each range with number 1, and to designate the ranges by progressive numbers to the westward, the first range extending from the Ohio to Lake Erie being marked 1.
The extinguishment of the Indian titles was another obstacle to be removed. In the treaty made with Great Britain in 1783, no arrangement was made for their faithful Indian allies; they were left to the mercy of the conqueror. The hostility of the Six Nations had wrought so much evil in New York, that their entire expulsion was threatened. But mainly through the influence of Washington and Schuyler, a more merciful policy was adopted. About this time the United States government changed its principle of action in its dealings with the red men. The old idea that "might makes right" was abandoned, and they were dealt with as though they had rights that were to be recognized. They were paid for the lands they relinquished, though it must be acknowledged that the pay was very inadequate and oftentimes quite unsatisfactory to the sellers. A treaty was made at Fort Stanwix in 1784, by the terms of which the Six Nations, the Mohawks, Onondagas, Senecas, Cayugas, Tuscaroras and Oneidas, relinquished their claims to the Ohio valley, which they had maintained for more than a hundred years. In the treaty of Fort Finney, at the mouth of the Great Miama, the Shawnees also ceded their claims to the same territory. Some part of the tribe, however, were not satisfied with the terms, and in 1786, there were evident signs of an outbreak on the part of the disaffected. But acting upon the new theory that the Indians had rights, in 1787 congress appropriated twenty-six thousand dollars to the extinguishment of the titles of the Indians to lands already ceded, and at the same time to extend the limits of transferred territory. The state of Ohio contains no land that was not honestly bought and paid for.
The time drew near when this fair land, upon which the sun looked down complacently and went on its way toward the Pacific, was to be taken possession of by those who would bring with them civilization and Christianity, and change the wilderness into fertile fields, and make glad the waste places.
Fort Harmar was the first permanent military post established in the Northwest territory. It was built on the right bank of the Muskingum river, in the angle made by its junction with the Ohio. The erection of the fort began under Major Doughty in 1785, but was not finished till the following year. The fort was named for General Harmar, to whose detachment Major Doughty belonged. The fort included within its walls about three-fourths of an acre, and was admirably well situated.
The Muskingum, as pure and limpid then as the founts of Castalia— indeed, in the Indian language the name means elk's eye, so called from its transparency—flowed down between banks then clothed in magnificent trees, that only the richest soil could produce, and then lost itself and its name in the greater Ohio. Above there is a curve in the Ohio river, in the truest line of beauty, in which both shores sympathize, and a little gem of an island, which dame nature seems to have dropped from her apron as she was passing over to correct her work, exactly follows out the course. Here the valley stretches below with a long variation in its trend. The same point commanded a view up the Muskingum, than which no better watchtower could have been selected.
The fort was pentagonal; the walls were of hewn logs placed horizontally, one above another, and rising to a height of twelve feet. The length was a hundred and twenty feet. The fifth side, opening in the area of the fort, was occupied with block houses, intended for residences for the officers. The barracks for the private soldiers were built along the sides of the curtains, with roof slanting inward. On the curtain which faced the Ohio, there was a square tower, from the top of which the tri-colored flag threw its folds to the breeze. A sentinel was always stationed in the tower, as from its position the outlook commanded an extended view up both valleys and down the Ohio.
The sally-port was toward the hill back of the fort; the main gate faced the Ohio; gardens were tastefully laid out near the fort, and a council-house erected a short distance above. It was in this house that General St. Clair made the short-lived treaty of 1789. On the opposite shore, in Virginia, there were about a score of families living at the time the pioneers came to begin their settlement. Isaac Williams, a noted hunter and a good and enterprising man, who deserves to be held in everlasting remembrance, was at the head of this colony.
In 1788 the time came when a break was to be made in the wilderness of the great northwest, and a home fitted up for civilized men. The spot chosen for the first inroad upon savage life and savage possession, was on the left bank of the Muskingum, opposite Fort Harmar. This date marks the beginning of the heroic age in the history of Ohio. And more fortunate than most people's, whose heroes are only seen dimly in the mists of the past, the men who made that period illustrious in her annals, stand out in full relief of form and lineament. Their characters are stamped upon existing institutions and all the conditions of the commonwealth. Indeed, some few of the children of the heroes are still actors in the drama which their fathers initiated at so great a cost. They are white-haired men and women now, and their feeble steps show that they have reached and passed the prescribed limit of this mortal life; yet some of them have the hope that they will be allowed to remain until they have joined in celebrating the centennial which is so near at hand.
In these days when railroads abound, the emigrant to a new country carries with him all the appliances of civilization. He knows scarcely more of hardship in the new country than he did in the old. Not so with the men and women who felled the first trees, planted the first corn, and made the first homes in the Northwest territory. There was no kind of toil and no manner of hardship with which they were not constrained to make acquaintance. The bride of a day, whose husband joined the emigrants to Ohio, bade her father and mother, her brothers and sisters an adieu that was in many cases final. Nor could her homesick heart be comforted by weekly or even monthly messages of love from those she had left and now longed for. Letters but rarely, very rarely, came to tell her that she was loved and cared for still. There was only blank silence between her and the dear ones at home. For years there were no mails, and no way of sending letters but by a chance traveler.
The step which led the way to the settlement of the Northwest territory, was taken by congress in 1776, when an act was passed offering an appropriation of land to each officer and soldier who should serve during the war then in progress. The tracts offered varied in extent with the ranks of the officers. A colonel was to have five hundred acres, inferior officers less, and common soldiers one hundred acres. In 1780 the act was amended so as to include general officers. Major-generals were to receive one thousand one hundred, and brigadier-generals eight hundred and fifty acres. The first organized settlement in the west was the immediate offshoot of these enactments. During the long struggle to gain independence, agriculture had been neglected, manufactures had received but little attention, and production of every kind had greatly diminished, while consumption had immensely increased.
Men who had been seven years in the army found many difficulties in the way of returning to the trades and occupations by which they had previously earned a living. There had not only been the loss of the annual income, but in many cases the loss of the business itself. Besides, tastes and aptitudes had undergone a change, and what had once been acceptable and pleasant was so no longer. Yet a livelihood must be obtained, and generally men had others as well as themselves for whom they must provide. The general exchequer was as thoroughly exhausted as the private purses of the officers and soldiers. The government could only compensate the men, to whose efforts it owed its existence, by promises to pay; and so poor was the prospect of these promises being redeemed, that they only brought in the market one-sixth of the sum called for on their face, And there came a time when they sank even lower than this. Hence, in 1783, as soon as the treaty of peace with Great Britain was signed, a petition was presented to congress, bearing the signatures of eighty-eight officers, asking that the land to which they were entitled might be located in "that tract of country bounded on the north by Lake Erie, south on the Ohio river, etc." General Rufus Putnam forwarded the petition to congress, and at the same time wrote a letter to General Washington in which he enforced its demands.
The letter is important as showing how thoroughly General Putnam had studied the subject, and also to what an extent the success of the colony was due to his practical wisdom and foresight. The letter is found in the archives of Marietta college, where the papers of General Putnam were deposited by his grandson, Colonel William R. Putnam.
New WINDSOR, June 16, 1783.
SIR: As it is very uncertain how long it may be before the honorable congress may take the petition of the officers of the army for lands between the Ohio river and Lake Erie into consideration, or be in a situation to decide thereon, the going to Philadelphia to negotiate the business, with any of its members or committee to whom the petition may be referred, is a measure none of the petitioners will think of undertaking. The part I have taken in promoting the petition is well known, and, therefore, needs no apology when I tell you that the signers expect that I will pursue measures to have it laid before congress. Under these circumstances I beg leave to put the petition in your excellency's hands, and ask with the greatest assurance your patronage of it. That congress may not be wholly unacquainted with the motives of the petitioners, I beg your indulgence while I make a few observations on the policy and propriety of granting the prayer of it, and making such arrangements of garrisons in the western quarter as shall give effective protection to the settlers and encourage immigration to the new government, which, if they meet your approbation and the favor be not too great, I must request your excellency to give them your support, and cause them to be forwarded with the petition to the president of congress, in order that, when the petition is taken up. Congress, or their committee, may be informed on what principles the petition is grounded. I am, sir, among those who consider the cession of so great a tract of territory to the United States, in the western world, as a very happy circumstance and of great consequence to the American empire; nor have I the least doubt that congress will give an early attention to securing the allegiance of the natives as well as provide for the defense of the country in case of a war with Great Britain or Spain. One great means of securing the allegiance of the natives, I take to be the furnishing them with such necessaries as they stand in need of, and in exchange receiving their furs and skins. They have become so accustomed to the use of firearms that I doubt if they could gain a subsistence without them, at least they will be very sorry to he reduced to the disagreeable necessity of using the bow and arrows as the only means of killing their game; and so habituated are they to the woolen blanket, etc., etc., that absolute necessity alone will prevent their making use of them.
This consideration alone is, I think, sufficient to prove the necessity of establishing such factories as may furnish an ample supply to these wretched creatures; for unless they are furnished by the subjects of the United States, they will undoubtedly seek elsewhere, and, like all other people, form their attachments where they have their commerce, and then in case of war will always be certain to aid our enemies. Therefore, if there were no other advantage in view than that of attaching them to our interests, I think good policy will dictate the measure of carrying on a commerce with these people. But when we add to this the consideration of the profit arising from the Indian trade in general, there cannot, I presume, be a doubt that it is the interest of the United States to make as early provision for the encouragement and protection of it as possible. For these and many other obvious reasons, congress will no doubt find it necessary to establish garrisons in Oswego, Niagara, Michillimackinac, Illinois and many other places in the western world.
The Illinois and all the ports that shall lie established on the Mississippi may, undoubtedly, be furnished by way of the Ohio with provisions at all times, and with goods whenever a war shall interrupt the trade with New Orleans. But in case of a war with Great Britain, unless a communication is open between the river Ohio and Lake Erie, Niagara, Detroit, and all the ports seated on the great lakes will inevitably be lost without such communication, for a naval superiority on Lake Ontario and the seizing of Niagara will subject the whole country bordering on the lakes to the will of the enemy. Such a misfortune will put it out of the power of the United States to furnish the natives, and necessity will again oblige them to take an active part against us. Where and how this communication is to be opened shall be next considered. If Captain Hutchins, and a number of other map makers, are not out in their calculations, provision may be sent from the settlements on the south side of the Ohio by the Muskingum or Scioto to Detroit, or even to Niagara, then from Albany by the Mohawk to those places. To secure such communication (by the Scioto, all things considered, will be the best) let a chain of forts he established. These forts should be built upon the banks of the river if the ground will permit, and about twenty miles distant from each other, and on this plan the Scioto communication will require ten or eleven stockaded forts, flanked by block houses, and one company of men will be sufficient garrison for each, except the one at the portage, which will require more attention and a larger number of men to garrison it. But besides supplying the garrisons on the great lakes with provisions, etc., we ought to take into consideration the protection that such arrangements will give to the frontiers of Virginia. Pennsylvania and New York. I say New York as we shall undoubtedly extend our settlements and garrisons from the Hudson to Oswego. This done, and a garrison posted at Niagara, whoever will inspect the map must be convinced that all the Indians on the waters of the Mohawk, Oswego, Susquehanna and Allegheny rivers, and in all of the country south of the lakes Ontario and Erie, will be encircled in such manner as will effectually secure their allegiance and keep them quiet or oblige them to quit the country. Nor will such an arrangement of forts from the Ohio to Lake Erie be any additional expense, for, unless this gap is shut, notwithstanding the garrisons on the lakes and from Oswego to the Hudson, yet the frontier settlers on the Ohio, from Fort Pitt to the Susquehanna and all the country south of the Mohawk, will be exposed to savage insult, unless protected by a chain of garrisons, which will be far more expensive than the arrangement proposed, and at the same time the protection given to these states will he much less complete; besides we should not confine our protection to the present settlements, but carry the idea of extending them at least as far as the lakes Ontario and Erie. These lakes form such a natural barrier that when connected with the Hudson and Ohio, by the garrisons proposed, settlements in every part of Pennsylvania and New York may be made with the utmost safety, so that these states must be deeply interested in the measures, as well as Virginia, who will by the same arrangement have a great part of its frontier secured and the rest much strengthened. Nor is there a state in the Union but will be greatly benefited by the measure, considered in any other point of view, for without any expense, except a small allowance of purchase money to the natives, the United States will have within their protection seventeen million live hundred thousand acres of very xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
But I hasten to mention some of the expectations which the petitioners have respecting the conditions on which they hope to obtain the lands. This was not proper to mention in the body of the petition, especially as we pay for grants to all members of the army who wish to take up lands in that quarter.
The whole tract is supposed to contain about seventeen million, four hundred and eighteen thousand, two hundred acres, and will admit of seven hundred and fifty-six townships of six miles square, allowing to each township three thousand and forty acres for the ministry, schools, waste lands, ponds and highways; then each township will contain of settlers land twenty thousand acres, and in the whole, fifteen million, one hundred and twenty thousand acres. The land to which the army is entitled by resolve of congress, referred to in the petition, according to my estimate will amount to two million, one hundred and six thousand, eight hundred and fifty acres, which is about the eighth part of the whole. In the survey of this, the army expect to be at no expense, nor do they expect to be under any obligation to settle their lands or do any duty to secure a title to them; but in order to induce the army to become actual settlers in the new government, the petitioners hope that congress will make a further grant of lands on condition of settlement, and have no doubt but that honorable body will be as liberal toward those who are not provided for by their own states as New York has been to all the officers and soldiers who belong to that state, which if they do, it will require about eight million acres to complete the army, and about seven millions will remain for sale. The petitioners, at least some of them, are very much opposed to the monopoly of the lands, and wish to guard against large patents being granted to individuals, as, in their opinion, such a mode is injurious to a country, and greatly retards its settlement; and whenever such patents are tenanted, it throws too much power into the hands of a few. For these, and many other obvious reasons, the petitioners hope that no grant will be made but by townships six miles square, or six by twelve, or six by eighteen miles, to be subdivided by the proprietors to six miles square, that being the standard by which they wish all calculations to be made; and that officers and soldiers, as well as those who petition for charters or purchases, may form their associations on one uniform principle, as to number of persons or rights to be contained in a township, with the exception only, that when the grant is made for services already done, or on condition of settlement, if the officers petition with the soldiers for a particular township, the soldiers shall have one right only, to a captain's three, and so in proportion with commissioned officers of every grade.
These, sir, are the principles which give rise to the petition under consideration. The petitioners, at least some of them, think that sound policy dictates the measure, and that congress ought to lose no time in establishing some such chain of posts as have been hinted at, and in procuring the tract of land petitioned for, of the natives; for the moment this is done, and agreeable terms offered to the settlers, many of the petitioners are determined not only to become adventurers but actually to remove themselves to this country; and there is not the least doubt but other valuable citizens will follow their example, and the probability is that the country between Lake Erie and the Ohio will be filled with inhabitants, and the faithful subjects of the United States so established on the waters of the Ohio and the lakes as to banish forever the idea of our western territory falling under the dominion of any European power. The frontier of the old states will be effectually severed from savage alarms, and the new will have little to fear from their insults.
I have the honor to be, sir, with every sentiment, your excellency's most obedient and very humble servant,
General Putnam was a careful observer and had seen enough of the benefits of the township system to wish to have it introduced with the new country whose interests he had so much at heart. Whether in consequence of this suggestion or not, the plan was adopted in the states made out of the Northwest Territory. Daniel Webster, in speaking of it said: "New England acted with vigor and effect, and the latest prosperity of those who settled northwest of the Ohio will have reason to remember with gratitude her patriotism and her wisdom. New England gave the system to the west, and while it remains there will be spread all over the west one monument of her intelligence in matters of government and practical good sense." Mr. Bancroft, speaking of New England, says: "The political education of the people is due to the organization of towns, which constitute each separate settlement a little democracy of itself." Each town-meeting was a little legislature, and all the inhabitants were members with equal franchise. There the taxes of the town were discussed and levied; there the village officers were chosen, the roads were laid out and bridges noted; there the minister was elected, the representatives to the legislature were installed.
Notwithstanding Washington warmly approved the plans and purposes explained in General Putnam's letter, no immediate action on the part of congress could be secured. There were reasons, real or imaginary, why nothing could be done. One reason assigned for inaction was that these lands were not in actual possession of the government. To rebut this objection it was claimed that at the close of the French and Indian War, France ceded to England the territory in question, and that subsequently General George Rogers Clark conquered the British forts therein, and Virginia extended her jurisdiction over the country. In the treaty of Paris, Great Britain relinquished all right and title to any territory south of the forty-ninth parallel. It was a fact well known at the time, that during the adjustment of that treaty, the British commissioners persistently urged the making of the Ohio river the boundary of the United States on the west. So strenuously did they insist upon this, that Dr. Franklin thought it better to yield the point and accept that boundary, fearing that by claiming the less, the United States might lose the greater good, and fail altogether in securing the treaty. But when he proposed this concession to his colleagues, John Jay and John Adams, the latter said indignantly, "No! Rather than relinquish our claim to the western territory, I will go home and urge my countrymen to buckle on their swords anew, and fight until their rights are acknowledged and granted, or they have no more lives to lose or blood to shed." Jay agreed with him and Franklin said no more about giving up the west, though had it not been for conquests of the heroic General Clark, they would have had no foundation on which to base a claim.
In the end, the British commissioners found it best to yield the point. A party in congress doubted the expediency of retaining the western country, even though it did rightfully belong to the government. They claimed that the eastern states would be better off without so great a weight hanging to their skirts as this great west would be. Among General Putnam's manuscript papers there is the first draft of an argument written to convince such unbelievers that it was a matter of necessity to all parts of the country that the west should be retained. The argument covers four sheets of foolscap, and is logical and able. In the light of the present, one gasps at the thought that there was even danger that this magnificent territory might be lost to the government—this great west which has done so much to make our country what it is, and has opened up such possibilities for the future.
In 1783 Virginia followed the example which New York had set two years before, and relinquished her claim to territory west of the Ohio with the important exception of a tract lying between the Scioto and Little Miami, afterwards known as the Virginia military district. It was reserved to pay the bounty awards of the soldiers from that state who had served in the Continental line. This gave a new impulse to efforts to make settlements in the west. General Putnam again addressed George Washington on the subject in the following letter:
April 5, 1784.
DEAR SIR: Being unavoidably prevented from attending the convention at Philadelphia as I intended, when I once more expected the opportunity, in person, of paying my respects to your excellency, I cannot deny myself the pleasure of addressing you by letter, to acknowledge with gratitude the ten thousand obligations I feel myself under to your goodness, and most sincerely to congratulate you on your return to domestic happiness; to inquire after your health, and wish that the best of heaven's blessings may attend you and your lady.
The settlement of the Ohio country, sir, engrosses many of my thoughts, and much of my time has been employed in informing myself and others in regard to the nature, situation and circumstances of that country and the practicability of removing ourselves there; and if I am to form an opinion on what I have seen and heard on the subject, there are thousands in this quarter who will emigrate to that country as soon as the honorable congress makes provision for granting lands there, and locations and settlements can be made with safety, unless such provision is too long delayed; I mean, until necessity turns their views another way, which is the case with some already and must soon be with many more. You are sensible of the necessity as well as the possibility of both officers and soldiers fixing themselves in business somewhere as soon as possible, as many of them are unable to lie longer on their oars waiting the decision of congress on our petition, and therefore must unavoidably settle themselves in some other quarter, which, when done, the idea of removing to the Ohio country will probably be at an end in respect to most of them. Besides, the commonwealth of Massachusetts has come to the resolution to sell their eastern country for public securities, and should their plan be formed and propositions be made public before we hear anything from congress respecting our petition and the terms on which the land petitioned for can be obtained, it will undoubtedly be much against us by greatly lessening the number of Ohio associates.
Another reason why we wish to know as soon as possible what the intentions of congress are respecting our petition, is the effect such knowledge will probably have on the credit of the certificates we have received on settlement of accounts, those securities are now selling at no more than three shillings and sixpence or four shillings on the pound, which, in all probability, might double, if not more, the moment it was known that the government would receive them for lands in the Ohio country. From these circumstances, and many others which might be mentioned, we are growing quite impatient, and the general inquiry now is, when are we going to the Ohio? Among others, Brigadier-General Tupper, Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver and Major Ashley have agreed to accompany me to that country the moment the way is opened for such an undertaking, I should have hinted these things to some member of congress, but the delegates from Massachusetts, although exceedingly worthy men, and in general would wish to promote the Ohio scheme, yet if it should militate against the particular interests of that state, by division of her inhabitants, especially when she is forming the plan of selling the eastern country, I thought they would not be very warm advocates in our favor; and I dare not trust myself with any of the New York delegates with whom I was acquainted, because that government is wisely inviting the eastern people to settle in that state; and as to the delegates of other states, I have no acquaintance with any of them.
These circumstances must apologize for my troubling you on the subject, and requesting the favor of a line to inform us in this quarter what the prospects are with respect to our petition, and what measures have been or likely to be taken with respect to settling the Ohio country.
I shall take it as a very particular favor, sir, if you will be kind enough to recommend me to some character in congress acquainted with and attached to the Ohio cause, with whom I may presume to open a correspondence.
I am, sir, with the highest respect, your humble servant,
To this letter General Putnam received the following reply:
MOUNT VERNON, June 2, 1784.
DEAR SIR: I could not answer your favor of the fifth of April from Philadelphia, because General Knox, having mislaid it, only presented the letter to me at the moment of my departure from that place. The sentiments of esteem and friendship that breathe in it are exceedingly pleasing and flattering to me, and you may rest assured they are reciprocal.
I wish it was in my power to give you a more favorable account of the officers petition for lands on the Ohio, and its waters than I am about to do. After this matter and respecting the establishment for peace were my inquiries, as I went through Annapolis, solely directed, but I could not learn that anything decisive had been done in either.
On the latter, I hear that congress are differing about their powers; but as they have accepted the cession from Virginia, and have resolved to buy ten new states, bounded by latitudes and longitudes, it should be supposed that they would determine something respecting the former before they adjourn, and yet I very much question it, as the latter is to happen on the third—that is to-morrow. As the congress, who are to meet in November next, by the adjournment, will be composed of an entire new choice of delegates in each state, it is not in my power, at this time, to direct you to a proper correspondent in that body. I wish I could, for persuaded I am that to some such cause as you have assigned, may be ascribed the delay the petition has encountered, for, surely, if justice and gratitude to the army and general policy of the Union were to govern in this case, there would not be the smallest interruption in gratifying its request. I really feel for these gentlemen, who, by the unaccountable delays (by any other means than those you have suggested), are held in such an awkward and disagreeable state of suspense, and wish that my endeavors could remove the obstacles. At Princeton, before congress left that place, I exerted every power I was master of, and dwelt upon the argument you have used, to show the propriety of a speedy decision, Every member with whom I conversed acquiesced in the reasonableness of the petition. All yielded or seemed to yield, to the policy of it, but plead the want of cession of the land to act upon; this is made and accepted and yet matters, as far as they have come to my knowledge, remain in status quo.
I am, dear sir, with my sincere esteem and regard.
Your most obedient servant,
General Benjamin Tupper, who had been employed by the government to assist in the survey of the territory bordering on the Ohio, agreed with General Putnam in regard to the desirableness of the country along the Ohio and Muskingum rivers as a place in which to begin a settlement, and united with him in January, 1786, in issuing a call to those who, in eastern Massachusetts, were interested in the enterprise to get together and elect delegates who should meet at the
Bunch of Grapes" tavern in Boston, March 1, 1786, to devise measures for the purchase of lands and the foundation of a colony. In response to this call eleven delegates met at the time and place appointed. General Rufus Putnam was chosen chairman of the meeting, and Winthrop Sargent secretary. Dr. Manasseh Cutler was present and took an active part in the proceedings. A committee of five was appointed to draft a plan of an association, as, "from the very pleasing description of the western country given by Generals Putnam and Tupper and others, it appears expedient to form a settlement there." That committee consisted of General Putnam, Dr. Manasseh Cutler, Colonel Brooks, Major Sargent and Captain Cushing, On the third day thereafter the committee reported a plan of association which was at once adopted and subscription books were opened.
A whole year passed, however, without enough names being subscribed to justify further action. On the eighth of March, 1787, the stockholders met at "Brackett's Tavern" in Boston, and the company was fully organized under the name and title of "The Ohio Company of Associates." Samuel H. Parsons, Rufus Putnam and Manasseh Cutler were appointed directors. The directors were empowered to make proposals to congress for a "private purchase of lands under such descriptions as they shall deem adequate for the purposes of the company." The directors made choice of Dr. Manasseh Cutler to go to New York, where congress was then in session, and make the desired purchase.
No fitter or more capable agent could have been selected. Dr. Cutler was a graduate of Yale college and had studied and taken degrees in the then learned professions. To the scientific world he was known as a man eminent in science, and his writings on botany and other branches of knowledge had made his name familiar to students and men of letters. As a scientific scholar he ranked next to Dr. Franklin, whom, in many respects, he greatly resembled. Of fine presence and courtly manners, fond of anecdote and a captivating talker, his conversation charmed his hearers, while at the same time his logic was so terse and incisive that he rarely failed to convince. He was just the man to meet the southern members of congress, conquer their prejudices and obtain their assistance in the furtherance of his designs; for, strange to say, it was upon their aid that he mainly depended for success. It is a somewhat singular fact that for the carrying out of a project, which originated in Massachusetts and depended principally upon Massachusetts men for successful prosecution, with an agent from the same state to negotiate the business, no help would be looked for from the members of congress from that state. On the other hand, opposition was expected and preparations made to meet it and to conquer, if possible, in the face of it. The reason is not far to seek. Massachusetts and New York had relinquished whatever claim they had to territory in the west. Connecticut had done the same with the reservation of a tract in the northeastern part of what was afterward the state of Ohio. Virginia, also, as has been stated, gave up all claims upon being allowed a tract of land to be given as bounty to soldiers. While, therefore, Massachusetts had no direct interest in the opening up of the west for settlement, as General Putnam intimated, there was an interest nearer home to which that project was inimical. The state owned thirty thousand square miles of territory in the Province of Maine which had recently been brought into the market, and there was great anxiety to dispose of it. It did not suit the men in authority to have the industry and enterprise and courage which the Ohio Company of Associates might withdraw from their border taken out of their state and carried to the far-off west. If this drain must come, they would prefer to direct it into a channel that would benefit the parent state. If they must colonize, let them go to Maine and buy land of their own commonwealth.
Dr. Cutler left his home in Ipswich, afterward Hamilton, and started in his one horse chaise for New York, June 24, 1787. He kept a journal in which he recorded the incidents of his journey and gave an account of his negotiations with congress. From a copy of that journal extracts will be given. He spent the Sabbath, June 24, in Lynn, and preached for Raisons. From thence he went to Cambridge. He writes:
Monday, June 25—Waited on Dr. Willard, president of Harvard college, this morning, who favored me with a number of introductory letters to gentlemen at the southward. Received several from Dr. Williams and went with him to Boston. Received letters of introduction from Governor Bowdoin, Mr. Winthrop, Dr. Warren, Dr. Dexter, Mr. Guild. Mr. Belknap; conversed with General Putnam received letters; settled the principles on which I am to contract with congress for lands on account of the Ohio Company.
Thursday, July 5—About three o'clock I arrived at New York by the road that enters the Bowery. Put up my horse at the sign of the Plow and the Harrow in the Bowery barns. After dressing myself I took a walk into the city. When I came to examine my letters of introduction, I found so accumulated that I hardly knew which to deliver first. As this is rather a curiosity to me. I am determined to procure a catalogue, although only a part are to be delivered in New York.
Friday, July 6, This morning delivered most of my introductory letters to members of congress. Prepared my papers for making application to congress for the purchase of land in the western country for the Ohio company. At eleven o'clock I was introduced to a number of members on the floor of congress chamber in the city hall, by Colonel Carrington, member from Virginia. Delivered my petition for purchasing lands for the Ohio company, and proposed terms and conditions of purchase. A committee was appointed to agree on terms of negotiation and report to congress. Dined with Mr. Dane.
Monday, July 9. Waited this morning, very early, on Mr. Hutchins. He gave me the fullest information of the country from Pennsylvania to Illinois, and advised me by all means to make our location on the Muskingum, which was decidedly, in his opinion, the best part of the whole western country. Attended the committee before congress opened, and then spent the remainder of the forenoon with Mr. Hutchins.
Attended the committee at congress chamber; debated on terms, but were so wide apart there appeared but little prospect of closing a contract.
Called again on Mr. Hutchins, consulted him further about the place of location. Spent the with Dr. Holton and several other members of congress in Hanover square.
Tuesday, July 10. This morning another conference with the committee. As congress was now engaged in settling a form of government for the Federal territory, for which a bill had been prepared and a copy sent to me with leave to make remarks and propose amendments, which I have taken the liberty to remark upon and propose several amendments, I thought this the most favorable time to go on to Philadelphia. Accordingly, after I had returned the bill with my objections. I set out at seven o'clock.
Dr. Cutler returned on the seventeenth of July. The journal is continued:
July 18. Paid my respects this morning to the president of congress. General St. Clair called on a number of friends. Attended at city hall on members of congress and this committee. We renewed our negotiations.
July 19 Called on members of congress very early in the morning, and was furnished with the ordinance establishing a government in the western Federal territory. It is in a degree new modeled. The amendments I proposed have all been made but one, and that is better qualified. It was that we should not be subject to Continental taxation unless we were entitled to a full representation in congress. This would not be fully obtained, for it was considered in congress as offering a premium to emigrants. They have granted us representation with the right of debating but not voting, upon our being first subject to taxation.
It seems well to pause in the narrative here and say a few words this celebrated "Ordinance of 1787." In an article in the North American Review for April, 1876, it is said:
The ordinance of 1787 and the Ohio company's purchase were parts of the same transaction. The purchase would not have been made without the ordinance, and the ordinance could not have been enacted except on an essential condition of the purchase. . . The ordinance in the breadth of its conceptions, its details and its results, has been, perhaps, the most noted instance of legislation ever by the American people. It fixed forever the character of the immigration and the social, political and educational institutions of the people who inhabit this imperial territory, then a wilderness but now covered by five great states, and teeming with more than ten million persons, or more than one-fourth the population of the United States. It forever prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude.
Its vital principles embodied in six articles of compact between the original states and the people and states of said territory to remain unalterable unless by common consent. It was well understood that common consent to any material change could never be obtained.
"The article prohibiting slavery saved at least three of the five states from the grip of that monster of iniquity—slavery." The article prohibiting slavery saved at least three of the five states from the grip of that monster of iniquity—slavery. In Ohio there was a hard-fought battle over the subject at the formation of the state constitution, a majority of only one vote saved the state from having slavery foisted upon it, the provisions of the ordinance to the contrary notwithstanding, only that provision saved Indiana and Illinois from being the recipients of the same evil.
We quote again from the article before mentioned:
Every square mile of the territory, thus covered by the ordinance of 1787, was patriotic (in the late civil war) and gave its men and its means for the support of the Union. South and southwest of that boundary line were treachery and rebellion; under the plausible semblance of neutrality, Kentucky and Missouri furnished more men that fought against the United States flag than fought under it. The northwestern states put more than a million soldiers into the Union armies, and they were the men who fought at forts Henry and Donaldson, Pittsburgh Landing, Stone river, Jackson and Vicksburg, and achieved the only Union victories gained during the first two years of the war.
Of this same ordinance, Mr. Webster said:
We are accustomed to praise the lawgivers of antiquity; we help to perpetuate the fame of Solon and Lycurgus, but I doubt whether any single law of any lawgiver, ancient or modern, has produced effects more of distinct, marked and lasting character than the ordinance of 1787.
Also the late Chief Justice Chase said of it:
Never, probably, in the history of the world did a measure of legislation so accurately fulfill, and yet so mightily exceed, the anticipations of the legislators.
There seems to be conclusive proof that Dr. Cutler helped to shape this ordinance, and that the incorporation of some of its most beneficial features was due to him. He was in New York negotiating for the purchase of land when the ordinance was passed; and though not a member of congress, and, of course, not a member of the committee for drafting ordinance, it was submitted to him for revision and amendments. As has already been quoted, he says in his journal: "All the amendments I proposed were made except one." And he elsewhere stated that among amendments he made were the prohibition of slavery and the enactments for the support of religion and the encouragement of education.
Dr. Cutler was assiduous in his endeavors to accomplish the business which he had come. The difficulties in the way of negotiating the purchase he found to be many and not easily overcome. There was need of all this consummate tact and unwearied perseverance.. The history of the transaction, as worded in his journal, shows that lobbying is not so recent an invention as has sometimes been supposed. Certain it is that he was greatly helped in the accomplishment of his object by its use. He received much attention and many invitations to dine and sup with members of congress and other distinguished men. "He was skillful in always keeping his errand in view, and yet so treating his subjects as to interest and not tire his hearers." He gives a full and interesting account of the great men that he met. He seems to have devoted himself mainly to winning over the members from the south, well knowing that it must be by their influence he must carry his point, if he carried it at all. The progress toward successful accomplishment seemed to him very slow, and again and again he despaired of making the purchase upon any such terms as he desired, and prepared to return home and leave the contract unmade.
He writes in his journal:
July 20. This morning the secretary of congress furnished me the ordinance of yesterday, which states the conditions of a contract, but on terms to which I shall by no means accede, I informed the committee of congress that I would not consent on the terms proposed; that I should prefer purchasing lands from some of the states, who would give me incomparably better terms, and therefore proposed to leave the city immediately.
July 21. Several members of congress called on me early this morning. They discovered much anxiety about a contract, and assured me that congress, on finding that I was determined not to accept their terms and had proposed leaving the city, had discovered a much more favorable disposition, and believed if I renewed my request I might obtain conditions as reasonable as I desired. I was very indifferent, and talked much of the advantages of a contract with one of the states. This I found had the desired effect. At length I told them that if congress would accede to the terms of my proposal, I would extend the purchase from the tenth township from the Ohio and to the Scioto inclusively, by which congress would pay more than four millions of the public debt; that our intention was to secure a large and immediate settlement of the most robust and industrious people in America, and that it would be made systematically, which must immediately advance the value of Federal lands, and prove an important acquisition to congress. On these terms I would renew the negotiation if congress was disposed to take the matter up again. Dined with General Webb at the Mess house in Broadway, opposite the play-house. Spent the evening with Mr. Dane and Mr. Millikin. They informed me that congress had taken up my business again.
My friends had made every exertion in private conversation to bring over my opponents in congress. In order to get at some of them, in order to work powerfully on their minds, we were obliged to employ three or four persons before we could get at them. In some instances we engaged a person, who engaged a second, and he a third, and so on to the fourth, before we could effect our purpose. In these maneuvers I am much beholden by the assistance of Colonel Duer and Major Sargent. The matter was taken up this morning in congress and warmly debated until three o'clock, when another ordinance was obtained. This was not to the minds of any of my friends, who were considerably increased in congress, but they conceived it to be better than the former, and they had obtained an additional clause empowering the board of treasury to take order upon this ordinance and complete the contract upon the general principles contained in it, which still left room for negotiation. Spent the evening with colonel Gragson and members of congress from the southwest, who were in favor of a contract. Having found it impossible to support General Parsons as a candidate for governor, after the interest that General St. Clair had secured, and suspecting that this might be some impediment in the way (for my endeavors to make interest for him were well known) and the arrangements for civil officers being on the carpet, I embraced the opportunity frankly to declare, that for my own part, and ventured to engage for Major Sargent, if General Parsons could have the appointment of first judge and Sargent secretary, we would he satisfied; and I heartily wished that his excellency General St. Clair might be governor. and that I solicit the eastern members to favor such an arrangement. This I found rather pleasing to the southern members, and they were so complacent as to ask repeatedly what office would he agreeable to me in the western country. I assured them that I wished for no appointment to the civil line. Colonel Grayson proposed the office of one of the judges, which was seconded by all the gentlemen present. The obtaining an appointment, I observed, had never come into my mind, nor was there any civil office I should at present be willing to accept. This declaration seemed to be rather surprising, especially to men who were so much used to solicit or be solicited for appointments of honor and profit. They deemed it to be the more urgent on this head. I observed to them although I wished for nothing for myself, yet I thought the Ohio company entitled to some attention, that one of our judges besides General Parsons should lie of that body, and that General Putnam was the man best qualified and would be most agreeable to that company, and gave them his character. We spent the evening very agreeably until a late hour.<
July 21. I received this morning a letter from the board of treasury, enclosing the resolution of congress, which passed yesterday, and requesting to know whether I was willing to close a contract on those terms. As the contract had now become of much greater magnitude than when I had only the Ohio company in view. I felt a diffidence in acting alone, and wished Major Sargent to be joined with me, although he had not been formally empowered to act, for the commission from the directors was solely to me. It would likewise take off some part of the responsibility from me should the contract not be agreeable. After consulting Duer, I proposed it to Sargent, who readily accepted. We answered the letter from the board as jointly commissioned in making the contract. We informed the board that the terms in the resolve of congress were such as we would not accede to without some variation. We, therefore, begged leave to state to the board the terms on which we should be ready to close the contract, and that those terms were our ultimatum. This letter was sent to the board, but the packet having just arrived, from England and another to sail next morning, it was not in their power to attend any further to our business for the day. Dined with Mr. Hilleyas, treasurer of the United States. I spent the evening with Mr. Osgood, president of the board of treasury, who appeared to be very solicitous to be informed fully of our plan. No gentleman has a higher character for planning and calculating than Mr. Osgood. I was, therefore much pleased at having an opportunity of fully explaining it to him. We were, unfortunately, interrupted with company. We, however, went over the outlines, and he was well disposed.
July 25. Mr. Osgood desired me to dine with him. Our plan, I had no scruple to communicate, and went over it in all its parts. Mr. Osgood made many valuable observations. The extent of his information astonished me. His views of the continent of Europe were so enlarged that he appeared to be a perfect master of every subject of the kind. He highly approved of our plan, and told me that he thought it was the best formed in America. He dwelt much on the advantages of system in a new settlement; said system had never before been attempted. If we were able to establish a settlement as he proposed, however small in the beginning, we should then have surmounted our greatest difficulty; that every other object would be within our reach, and if the matter were pushed with spirit, he believed it would be one of the greatest undertakings ever yet attempted in America. He thought congress would do a special service to the United States, even if they gave us the land, rather than that our plan should be defeated, and promised to make every exertion in his power in our favor. We spent the afternoon and evening alone, and very agreeably.
July 26. Being now eleven o'clock, General St. Clair was obliged to attend congress. After we came into the street, General St. Chair assured us he would make every possible exertion to prevail with congress to accept the terms contained in our letter. He appeared much interested and very friendly, but said we must expect opposition. I was fully convinced that it was good policy to give up Parsons and openly to appear solicitous that St. Clair might be appointed governor. Several gentlemen have told me that our matters went on much better since St. Clair and his friends had been informed that we had given up Parsons, and that I had solicited the eastern members in favor of St. Clair's appointment. I immediately went to Sargent and Duer. We now went into the true spirit of negotiation with great bodies. Every machine in the city it was possible to set to work, we now put in motion. Few, Bingham and Reamy are our principle opposers. Of Few and Bingham there is hope, but to bring over that stubborn mule of a Reamy is beyond our power. The bearer of treasury, I think, will do us much service, if Dr. Lee is not against us, though Duer assures me that I have got the length of his foot, and he calls me a frank, open, honest New England man, which he considers as an uncommon animal; yet from his zealous, cautious make, I feel suspicious of him, especially as Mr. Osgood tells me he has made every attempt to learn his sentiments but is unable to do so. His brother, Richard Henry Lee, is certainly our fast friend, and we have hopes he will engage him in our interest. Dined with Sir John Temple in company with several gentlemen. Immediately after dinner I took my leave of them and called on Dr. Holton. He told me congress had been warmly engaged in our business the whole day; that the opposition was lessened, but our friends did not think it prudent to come to a vote lest there should not be a majority in our favor. I felt much discouraged, and told Dr. Holton I thought it in vain to wait any longer, and should certainly leave the next day. He cried out on my impatience; said if I obtained my purposes in a month from that time I should be far more expeditious than was common in getting much smaller matters through congress; that it was of great magnitude, for it far exceeded any private contract ever made before in the United States; that if I should fail now I ought still to pursue the matter, for I should finally most certainly obtain the object I wished. To comfort me, he assured me, on his honor, that he never knew so much attention paid to any one person who made application to them on any kind of business, nor did he ever know them more pressing to bring it to a close. He could not have supposed that any three men from New England, even of the first characters, could have accomplished so much in so short a time. This, I believe, was mere flattery, though it was delivered with a very serious air; but it gave some consolation. I now learned very nearly who were for and against the terms. Bingham has come over, but Few and Reamy are stubborn. Unfortunately there are only eighty states represented, and unless seven of them are in favor, no ordinance can pass. Every moment of this evening till two o'clock was busily employed. A warm siege was laid on Few and Reamy, from different quarters, and if the point is not effectually carried the attack is to be renewed in the morning. Duer, Sargent and myself have agreed that if we fail Sargent shall go on to Maryland, which is at present not represented, and prevail on the members from that state to come on and interest themselves, if possible, in our plan. I am to go on to Connecticut and Rhode Island to solicit the members from those states to go on to New York, and to lay anchor to windward with them. As soon as these states are represented. Sargent is to renew the application, and I have promised Duer that if it is necessary I will return to New York again.
The result was better than Dr. Cutler ventured to hope for. The next day's entry is as follows:
Friday, July 27. I arose this morning and after adjusting my baggage (for I was determined to leave New York this day) I set out on a general morning visit, and paid my respects to all members of congress in the city, and informed them of my intention to leave the city that day. My expections of forming a contract, I told them, were nearly at an end. I should, however, wait the decision of congress, and if the terms which we had stated, and which I considered to be very advantageous to congress, considering the state of the country, were not accepted, we must turn our attention to some other part of the country. New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts would sell us land at half a dollar an acre, and give us exclusive privileges beyond what we had asked of congress. The speculating plan connected between the British of Canada and the New Yorkers was now well known. The uneasiness of the Kentucky people with respect to the Mississippi was notorious. A revolt of that country from the Union, if a war with Spain took place, was universally acknowledged to be highly probable; and most certainly a systematic settlement in that country, conducted by men strongly attached to the Federal government, I considered to be an object worthy of some attention. Besides, if congress rejected the terms now offered, there could be no prospect of any application from any other quarter. If a fair and honorable purchase could now be obtained, I presumed, contracts with the natives, similar to that made with the Six Nations, must be the consequence, especially as it might be more easily carried into effect. These, and such like, were the arguments I used. They seemed to be fully acceded to, but whether they will avail is very uncertain. Mr. R. H. Lee assured me he was prepared for one hour's speech, and he hoped for success. All urged me not to leave the city so soon, but I assumed an air of perfect indifference, and persisted in my determination, which had, apparently the effect I wished. Passing the city hall, as the members were going in to congress, Colonel Carrington told me he believed Few was secured; that little Reamy was left alone, and that he was determined to make one trial of what he could do in congress. Called on Sir John Temple for letters to Boston; bade my friends good-bye, and, as it was my last day, Mr. Henderson insisted on my dining with him and a number of friends he had invited. At half-past three I was informed that an ordinance had passed congress on the terms stated in our letter, without the least variation, and that the board of treasury was directed to take order and close the contract. This was agreeable but unexpected intelligence. Sargent and I went immediately to the board, who had received the ordinance, but were then rising. They urged me to tarry the next day and they would put by all other business to complete the contract; but I found it inconvenient, and, after making a general verbal adjustment, left it with Sargent to finish what was to he done at present. Dr. Lee congratulated me and declared he would do all in his power to adjust the terms of the contract, so far as was left to them, as much in our favor as possible. I proposed three months for collecting the first half million of dollars, and for executing the instruments of congress, which was acceded to. By this ordinance we obtained the grant of near five million acres of land, amounting to three and a half million dollars. One million and a half acres for the Ohio company and the remainder for a private speculation, in which many of the principal characters in America are concerned. Without connecting this speculation, similar terms and advantages could not have been obtained for the Ohio company. On my return through Broadway, I received the congratulations of my friends in congress, and others with whom I happened to meet. At half past six I took my leave of Mr. Henderson and family, where I had been most kindly and generously entertained. Left the city by way of the Bowery.
Dr. Cutler called on General Parsons, at Middleton, Connecticut, on his way home. Of his entertainment with him he writes:
July 30. When I had informed the general of my negotiations with congress, I had the pleasure to find it not only met his approbation, hut he expressed his astonishment that I had obtained terms so advantageous, which, he said, were beyond his expectations. He assured me he preferred the appointment of first judge to that of governor, especially if General St. Clair was governor. He proposed writing to General St. Clair and his friends in congress, that they would procure an appointment for me on the same bench; but I absolutely declined, assuring him that I had no wish to go in the civil line.
For the million five hundred acres bought for the Ohio company, payment was to be made "In specie, loan office certificates reduced to specie, in certificates of the liquidated debt reduced to specie." The price to be paid was one dollar.