Envisaging the West: Thomas Jefferson and the Roots of Lewis and Clark


Document Type

An Act for encouraging persons to settle on the waters of the Mississippi. Justified as a "means of cultivating a good correspondence with the neighbouring Indians," the provisions of this act encouraged "natural born subjects" and "foreign protestants" to settle along the waters of the Mississippi. Settlements possessed security value since they served as a means of projecting the colony's strength along the frontier. The act exempted settlers on the western slope of the Appalachian Mountains from payment of all public levies for ten years.

An Act for encouraging persons to settle on the waters of the Mississippi. Demonstrating commitment to western settlement, the Virginia Assembly sets levies and duties to offset the costs of protecting the western edges of Augusta County from the depredations of the French and their Native American allies.

Proclimation [sic] of 1754 In response to the perceived threat of French incursions into the Ohio valley, Governor Dinwiddie issued this proclamation offering bounty lands to "all who should voluntarily enter into ... service" for the establishment of a fort on the Ohio where it met the Mohongahela. The bounty lands included two hundred thousand acres near the fort and along the river. Each enlistee would receive land "in a proportion due to their respective merit."

An act for the encouragement and protection of the settlers upon the waters of the Mississippi, particularly in relation to taxation and duties. This law deals mainly with taxation but also continues a previous act for the encouragement of settlements "upon the waters of the Mississippi." That act limited the tax liablility of settlers along the Mississippi in order to speed settlement of that part of Albemarle county that extended farther west.

An act preventing and repelling the hostile incursions of the Indians, at enmity with the inhabitants of this colony. The law addresses ongoing violence between Virginians and native groups "supposed to be in the interest of the French." Bounty is offered to Virginians for the capture and killing of any enemy male over the age of twelve. To safeguard relationships with allies, the Assembly decrees that anyone who "knowingly and wilfully" kills any Native male "in alliance, peace and friendship with his majesty and his subjects in this colony" will be prosecuted as a felon.

An act for preventing and repelling the hostile incursions of the Indians, at enmity with the inhabitants of this colony. The law of August 29, 1755, which offered bounty for the "killing or destruction" of French-allied Native American males is expanded to offer like rewards to Virginia's Native American allies.

An Act for the more effectual preventing and repelling the hostile incursions of the Indians at enmity with the inhabitants of this colony. Further suggestions for the suppression of Native American violence through the offer of bounties. In order to maintain peaceful relationships with Indian allies, Virginians who kill or seize allied Native Americans will be prosecuted as felons.

An Act, to encourage Settlements on the Southern Boundary of this Colony. Virginia's colonial government exempted from taxation for ten years those who settled "upon Roanoke river" above the mouth of "little Roanoke, otherwise called Licking Hole." The exemption lasted ten years.

An act for establishing a trade with the Indian allies of his majesty, and to amend another act directing the trustees of the Indian Factory of Virginia. In an effort to regulate and control trade with Cherokee allies, conditions for trade are laid out in detail. The trustees of the Indian Factory are instructed to limit the types of goods sold and the manner in which they deal with established allies and new consumers.

An act for opening a road through the frontiers of this colony to Fort Pitt on the Ohio. For improving commerce with the Indians of the Ohio valley and to facilitate supplying British garrisons along the frontier, the General Assembly authorized Thomas Walker and other gentlemen to "lay out" and "direct" the clearing of a road from the north branch of the Potomac River to Fort Pitt. The act mandated that the road run near Braddock Road.

An act for the better support of the contingent charges of government. Section 1 of this law committed 2,000 pounds sterling for surveying the boundary between Virginia and Cherokee territory.

An act for dividing the county of Botetourt into two distinct counties. Petitioned by an ever growing number of settlers in Botetourt County, the General Assembly agreed to the creation of a the county of Fincastle for the more convenient establishment of local governmental institutions for settlers beyond Blue Ridge. The act describes the boundaries of Fincastle, establishes the responsibilities of the county court and local justices of the peace.

An act for dividing the county of Fincastle into three distinct counties, and the parish of Botetourt into four distinct parishes. As more settlers moved into Fincastle County, the demand for local institutions - courts, justices of the peace, etc. - grew. The General Assembly divided Fincastle into the counties of Kentucky, Washington, and Montgomery. This act defined the boundaries of the three counties, established courts, identified county seats, and recognized justices of the peace.

An act for establishing the county of Illinois, and for the more effectual protection and defense thereof. This act recognized the successful effort by George Rogers Clark and his expedition to secure the western side of the Ohio for Virginia. The commonwealth incorporated the existing inhabitants into the commonwealth through oaths of fidelity and then extended institutions of governance by establishing the county of Illinois. The act provided for election of civil officials and the raising of a five hundred man force for the defense of the county.

An act concerning officers, soldiers, sailors, and marines. This act guaranteed bounties of land and money to officers, soldiers, sailors, and marines who enlisted, or re-enlisted in some circumstances, in the forces of the commonwealth or the continental army. The bounties included $750 and "a grant of one hundred acres of any unappropriated land within" the commonwealth of Virginia for soldiers and for officers a "like quantity of lands as is allowed to officers of the same rank in the Virginia regiments on continental establishment." Other provisions of the act included tax exemption during time of service, pensions for soldiers' widows, prices for essentials through commissaries, and a grant of two hundred acres for volunteers under the command of George Rogers Clarke in defense of "the Illinois Country." Additional bounties of one hundred acres of land and $750 for special solicitations for troops to defend Illinois county and "four troops of horse" for the defense of Virginia's "eastern quarter."

An act for declaring and asserting the rights of this commonwealth, concerning purchasing lands from Indian natives. Virginia's revolutionary government claimed an "exclusive right of preemption" over all lands within the bounds of its "chartered territory," including the lands north and west of the Ohio River. Moreover, the act made null and void every land transaction between individuals and the various tribes of Indians, or grants from English crown to any individual within the commonwealth, transferring control of all such lands into the hands of the commonwealth.

An act for establishing a Land office, and ascertaining the terms and manner of granting waste and unappropriated lands. Concerned about the disposal of "waste and unappropriated lands," the General Assembly created a land office to deal with the sale and distribution of these lands. The lands would be used to encourage immigration, increasing public revenue, and paying off the commonwealth's debt. The office's administrative role would be essential to managing records of land patents, grants, veterans' land warrants, and purchases of waste and unappropriated lands sold at forty pounds per hundred acres. Managing Virginias lands, and later the public lands of the United States, was a central concern throughout the dcades of the early republic.

An act for marking and opening a road over the Cumberland mountains into the county of Kentucky. In response to the pressure from increased settlement along the Ohio River, Virginia's legislature passed this act to finance the scouting and blazing of a trail for use as a road to facilitate "communication and intercourse between the inhabitants in the eastern and western parts." The legislators chose Evan Shelby and Richard Callaway for the task of surveying and marking the proposed route. These two men were directed to proceed through the Cumberland Mountains, to mark and then "cause ... to be opened and cleared. Shelby and Callaway were to receive three hundred acres of land or one hundred twenty pounds in payment for their services. The act also provided for the recruitment of a militia guard and labour detail of up to fifty men.

An act for more effectually securing to the officers and soldiers of the Virginia line, the lands reserved to them. With significant tracts of land in the western reaches of Virginia promised to the "officers and soldiers of the Virginia line," the Assembly asserts its rights to promise lands to veterans and remove squatters. To reduce tensions along the state's border, the assembly prohibits settlement beyond the boundaries it has set.

Virginia's delegates cede western counties to the nation. The wrangling between Virginia, Maryland, and other "landed" states and the Congress over the use and distribution of western territory was a long and contentious process. With this document, Virginia's delegates cede land northwest of the Ohio River to the nation.

Land Ordinance of 1785. Until the Homestead Act of 1862, this ordinance, with detailed instructions as to the sectioning of land into township and plats, was the guiding document in the division and dispersal of Western lands.