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THE PUBLIC DOMAIN AND AN OUTLINE OF THE HIS
TORY OF CHANGES MADE THEREIN.
CESSIONS BY THE STATES.
At the time the Constitution was adopted by the original thirteen States, many of them possessed unoccupied territory, in some cases entirely detached and lying west of the Appalachian Mountains. Thus, Georgia included the territory from its present eastern limits westward to the Mississippi River. North Carolina possessed a narrow strip extending from latitude 350 to 36° 30', approximately, and running westward to the Mississippi, including besides its own present area that of the present State of Tennessee. In like manner, Virginia possessed what is now Kentucky, while a number of States, as Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, laid claim to areas in what was afterwards known as the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, a region which is now comprised mainly in the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. These claims were to a greater or less extent conflicting. In some cases several States claimed authority over the same area, while the boundary lines were in most cases very ill-defined.
The ownership of these western lands by individual States was opposed by those States which did not share in their possession, mainly on the ground that the resources of the General Government, to which all contributed, should not be taxed for the protection and development of this region, while its advantages would inure to the benefit of but a favored few. On this ground several of the States refused to ratify the Constitution until this matter had been settled by the cession of these tracts to the General Government.
Moved by these arguments, as well as by the consideration of the conflicting character of the claims, which must inevitably lead to trouble among the States, Congress passed, on October 30, 1779, the following act:
Whereas the appropriation of the vacant lands by the several States during the present war will, in the opinion of Congress, be attended with great mischiefs: Therefore,
Resolved, That it be earnestly recommended to the State of Virginia to reconsider their late act of assembly for opening their land office; and that it be recommended to the said State, and all other States similarly circumstanced, to forbear settling or issuing warrants for unappropriated lands, or granting the same during the continuance of the present war.
This resolution was transmitted to the different States. The first to respond to it by the transfer of her territory to the General Government was New York, whose example was followed by the other States.
The cessions were made on the dates given below:
The Connecticut act of oession reserved an area in the northeastern part of Ohio, known as the Western Reserve. On May 30, 1800, Connecticut gave to the United States jurisdiction over this area, but without giving up its property rights in it.
South Carolina, August 9, 1787.
The following paragraph from the deed of cession by New York defines the limits of its cession to the General Government:
Now, therefore, know ye, that we, the said James Duane, William Floid, and Alexander M’Dougall, by virtue of the power and authority, and in the execution of the trust reposed in us, as aforesaid, have judged it expedient to limit and restrict, and we do, by these presents, for and in behalf of the said State of New York, limit and restrict the boundaries of the said State in the western parts thereof, with respect to the jurisdiction, as well as the right or pre-emption of soil, by the lines and in the form following, that is to say: A line from the northeast corner of the State of Pennsylvania, along the north bounds thereof to its northwest corner, continued due west until it shall be intersected by a meridian line to be drawn from the forty-fifth degree of north latitude, through the most westerly bent or inclination of Lake Ontario; thence by the said meridian line to the forty-fifth degree of north latitude; and thence by the said forty-fifth degree of north latitude; but, if on experiment, the above-described meridian line shall not comprehend twenty miles due west from the most westerly bent or inclination of the river or strait of Niagara, then we do, by these presents, in the name of the people, and for and on behalf of the State of New York, and by virtue of the authority aforesaid, limit and restrict the boundaries of the said State in the western parts thereof, with respect to jurisdiction, as well as the right of pre-emption of soil, by the lines and in the manner following, that is to say: A line from the northeast corner of the State of Pennsylvania, along the north bounds thereof, to its northwest corner continued due west until it shall be intersected by a meridian line, to be drawn from the forty-fifth degree of north latitude, through a point twenty miles due west from the most westerly bent or inclination of the river or strait Niagara; thence by the said meridian line to the forty-fifth degree of north latitude, and thence by the said forty-fifth degree of north latitude.
The deed of cession by Virginia gives no limits, further than to specify that the lands transferred include only those lying northwest of the river Ohio.
The following paragraph from the deed of cession by Massachusetts gives the limits of the area ceded:
We do by these presents assign, transfer, quitclaim, cede, and convey to the United States of America, for their benefit, Massachusetts inclusive, all right,
title, and estate of and in, as well the soil as the jurisdiction, which the said Commonwealth hath to the territory or tract of country within the limits of Massachusetts charter situate and lying west of the following line, that is to say, a meridian line to be drawn from the forty-fifth degree of north latitude through the westerly bent or inclination of Lake Ontario, thence by the said meridian line to the most southerly side line of the territory contained in the Massachusetts charter; but if on experiment the above-described meridian line shall not comprehend twenty miles due west from the most westerly bent or inclination of the river or strait of Niagara, then we do by these presents, by virtue of the power and authority aforesaid, in the name and on behalf of the said Commonwealth of Massachusetts, transfer, quitclaim, cede, and convey to the United States of America, for their benefit, Massachusetts inclusive, all right, title, and estate of and in as well the soil as the jurisdiction, which the said Commonwealth hath to the territory or tract of country within the limits of the Massachusetts charter, situate and lying west of the following line, that is to say, a meridian line to be drawn from the forty-fifth degree of north latitude through a point twenty miles due west from the most westerly bent or inclination of the river or strait of Niagara; thencé by the said meridian line to the most southerly side line of the territory contained in the Massachusetts charter aforesaid.
The following clause from the act of the legislature of Connecticut, authorizing the cession, defines its limits: Be it enacted
That the delegates of this State, or any two of them, who shall be attending the Congress of the United States, be, and they are hereby, directed, authorized, and fully empowered, in the name and behalf of this State, to make, execute, and deliver, under their hands and seals, an ample deed of release and cession of all the right, title, interest, jurisdiction, and claim of the State of Connecticut to certain western lands, beginning at the completion of the forty-first degree of north latitude, one hundred and twenty miles west of the western boundary line of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as now claimed by said Commonwealth, and from thence by a line drawn north, parallel to and one hundred and twenty miles west of the said west line of Pennsylvania, and to continue north until it comes to forty-two degrees and two minutes north latitude. Whereby all the right, title, interest, jurisdiction, and claim of the State of Connecticut to the lands lying west of said line to bedrawn as aforementioned, one hundred and twenty miles west of the western boundary line of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as now claimed by said Commonwealth, shall be included, released, and ceded to the United States in Congress assembled, for the common use and benefit of the said States, Connecticut inclusive. The cession of South Carolina was described as follows:
All the territory or tract of country included within the river Mississippi and a line beginning at that part of the said river which is intersected by the southern boundary line of the State of North Carolina, and continuing along the said boundary line until it intersects the ridge or chain of mountains which divides the eastern from the western waters, then to be continued along the top of said ridge of mountains until it intersects a line to be drawn due west from the head of the southern branch of Tugaloo River to the said mountains; from thence to run a due west course to the river Mississippi.
The State of North Carolina ceded
The lands situated within the chartered limits of the State, west of a line beginning on the extreme height of Stone Mountain, at the place where the Virginia line intersects it; running thence along the extreme height of the said mountain to the place where the Watauga River breaks through it; thence a direct course to the top of the Yellow Mountain where Bright's road crosses the same; thence along the ridge of the said
mountain, between the waters of Doe River and the waters of Rock Creek, to the place where the road crosses the Iron Mountain; from thence along the extreme height of the said mountain to where Nolechucky River runs through the same; thence to the top of the Bald Mountain; thence along the extreme height of the said mountain to the Painted Rock, on French Broad River; thence along the highest ridge of the said mountain to the place where it is called the Great Iron or Smoky Mountain; thence along the extreme height of the said mountain to the place where it is called the Unicoy or Unaka Mountain, between the Indian towns of Cowee and Old Chota; thence along the main ridge of the said mountain to the southern boundary of this State.
It will be noted that the above description of the eastern boundary of her ceded possessions agrees in general terms with the description of the western boundary of North Carolina, as given on page 102.
The articles of cession by Georgia describe the area ceded as follows:
The lands situated within the boundaries of the United States, south of the State of Tennessee and west of a line beginning on the west bank of the Chattahouchee River, where the same crosses the boundry line between the United States and Spain; thence running up the said river Chattahouchee and along the western bank thereof to the great bend thereof, next above the place where a certain creek or river, called Uchee (being the first considerable stream on the western side, above the Cussetas and Coweta towns), empties into the said Chattahouchee River; thence in a direct Jine to Nickajack, on the Tennessee River; thence crossing the last-mentioned river, and thence running up the said Tennessee River and along the western bank thereof to the southern boundary line of the State of Tennessee.
Of the area thus ceded to the General Government the part lying north of the Ohio was afterwards erected into the “ Territory Northwest of the River Ohio," and the balance, lying south of that river, was known as the “Territory South of the River Ohio.”
TERRITORY NORTHWEST OF THE RIVER OHIO.
This territory was bounded on the west by the Mississippi and the international boundary, on the north by the boundary line between the United States and the British possessions, on the east by the Pennsylvania and New York State lines, and on the south by Ohio River. It comprised an area of, approximately, 266,000 square miles. It was made up of claims of different States, as follows:
1. Virginia uncontested claims, which consisted of all the territory west of Pennsylvania and north of the Ohio to the forty-first parallel of north latitude, besides her claim, by capture, as far as the northern limits of the land under the Crown which had been subject to the jurisdiction of the provinces of Quebec and to Lakes Michigan and Huron.
2. The claim of Connecticut, which extended from the forty-first parallel northward to the parallel of 42° 2', and from the west line of Pennsylvania to the Mississippi River.
3. The claim of Massachusetts, which extended from the north line of the Connecticut claim above noted to 43° 43' 12'' north latitude, and from the eastern boundary of New York to the Mississippi.
4. The belt or zone lying north of the Massachusetts claim, extending thence to the Canada line and west to the Mississippi River, was claimed to have been obtained by the treaty of peace of Great Britain, September 3, 1783.
5. At the cession by the State of Virginia, both Massachusetts and New York claimed the Erie purchase of about 316 square miles, which was subsequently bought by Pennsylvania and added to that State.
From this territory were formed the following States: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, that part of Minnesota east of the Mississippi River, and the northwest corner of Pennsylvania.
In 1787 a bill for its provisional division into not less than three nor more than five States was passed by Congress. In this bill the limits of the proposed States were defined, corresponding in their north and south lines to the boundaries of Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana as at present constituted. The following gives the text of the clause defining these boundaries:
ARTICLE 5. There shall be formed in the said territory not less than three nor more than five States; and the boundaries of the States, as soon as Virginia shall alter her act of cession and consent to the same, shall become fixed and established as follows, to wit: The western State in said territory shall be bounded by the Mississippi, the Ohio, and the Wabash River, a direct line drawn from the Wabash and Post Vincents dúe north to the territorial line between the United States and Canada, and by the said territorial line to the Lake of the Woods and Mississippi. The middle State shall be bounded by the said direct line, the Wabash from Post Vincents to the Ohio, by the Ohio, by a direct line drawn due north from the mouth of the Great Miami to the said territorial line, and by the said territorial line. The eastern State shall be bounded by the last-mentioned direct line, the Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the said territorial line: Provided, however, And it is further understood and declared, that the boundaries of these three States shall be subject so far to be altered, that, if Congress shall hereafter find it expedient, they shall have authority to form one or two States in that part of the said territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan. Passed July 13, 1787.
The provisions of this bill seem, however, never to have been carried out. A provisional government was instituted in 1788. By act of May 7, 1800, Congress divided this territory into two Territorial governments, the divisional line being a meridian passing through the mouth of the Kentucky River and extending thence northward to the Canada border. The eastern portion became the "Territory Northwest of the River Ohio,” and the western portion, Indiana Territory.
On November 29, 1802, the State of Ohio, comprising most of the former, was formed and admitted into the Union, while the remnant of it was added to Indiana Territory.
In 1805 all that portion of Indiana Territory lying north of a parallel