Petition of Tennessee General Assembly
to the United States Congress
to Set Aside North Carolina's Claims to Land
Not Yet Entered Inside the Boundaries of Tennessee

Petition No. 15-1817
Manuscript Collection, TN State Library & Archives, Nashville

To the Honorable The Congress of the United States

      The General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, would be unmindful of one of the first duties they owe, not only to the state but to many individuals whose interests they represent, should they omit to bring to your recollection a subject upon which they cannot but feel great solicitude.

      In the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty three, while the state of North-Carolina was a sovereign and independent state; when she had an acknowledged right to make what disposition she deemed most proper of any vacant land within her limits, and while Tennessee was a part of that state, she passed "an act for opening the land office, for the redemption of specie and other certificates, and discharging the arrears due to the army," and in, and by the provisions of that act, offered for sale a large quantity of her western lands, at the price of ten pounds per hundred acres. Shortly afterwards many of her citizens, as they were well authorized to do, repaired to the office, thus opened, made entries of land, and paid the consideration money required of them for the quantity by them respectively purchased.

      That state, through the agency of her officers, procured to have surveys made and grants issued to many of those individuals as by her laws she had promised. Upon some of those entries no surveys have ever yet been made or patents issued.

      Had the citizens who made those purchases chose immediately afterwards to have taken possession of their respective tracts, no person could have made any legal objection thereto.

      The state of North-Carolina, afterwards, by her act of cession, in the year 1789, and her deed in pursuance thereof, granted to the United States all her lands which lay within the limits of what is now the state of Tennessee; but to this grant she attached several conditions amongst which is one saving the right which individuals had acquired to lands under her authority.

      In the Constitution of the United States it is expressly provided that private property shall not be taken for public purposes without making just compensation therefor.

      Although individuals had made purchases, paid the consideration money, and many of them had procured grants, the highest evidence of title, and others were entitled to grants upon their entries, yet the United States, after those rights had been thus acquired, made treaties with that tribe of Indians called Chickasaws, by virtue of which they have guarranteed [sic] to them the possession and enjoyment of large quantities of those lands which now lie within the limits of this state, and have as far as their statutory provisions can make it so, rendered it unlawful for those individuals to occupy or even to visit their lands.

      Of those treaties and statutes, this General Assembly believe they have much cause to complain; by virtue of them, as well their citizens as those of North-Carolina, have long been prohibited from the use and occupation of land, for which they had paid an adequate consideration from thirty to forty years ago; and this without any thing like compensation having been either made or offered, at the same time that this prohibition is in favor of a people who have not either a hut or habitation upon lands within the limits of this state; the consequences of these regulations are most injurious to the state of Tennessee, she is by them deprived of that strength and influence to which her limits entitle her, and of those resources and improvements which settlements upon those lands would naturally afford.

      But if these regulations have been and are injurious to the state, the evil has not stopped here, they have without doubt, heretofore been in a great degree; and if these restrictions are not speedily removed, must soon be entirely destructive of most if not all those private rights so fairly acquired.

      Time must soon (if it has not already done so) so deface or obliterate the marks by which claims can either be identified or the boundaries ascertained, that although our citizens may have the highest evidence of title, with which men can be furnished, to the enjoyment of landed property, yet because they have been deprived of the possession of this property, they will be forever unable to ascertain the spot covered by those evidences.

      This General Assembly have too much confidence in the justice of your honorable body to believe that you will suffer this state of things much longer to continue; they must therefore, respectfully, but earnestly urge, that such steps may be taken as will remove these obstructions which the treaties and acts of congress have thrown in the way of the possession and occupation of those lands purchased by individuals under the laws of the state of North-Carolina.

Thomas Williamson,
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Edward Ward,
Speaker of the Senate

November 25, 1817.

Many thanks to Steve Sabol for transcribing this document!

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