Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
—I. ACQUISITION. 1. Under the Colonies. Six of the colonies, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland (see their names), had defined western boundaries; the other seven, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, had none, unless we may consider the Pacific ocean, assigned in the charters and grants of most of them, as a western boundary. There were some irregularities. The boundaries of New Hampshire were always exceedingly vague; and, though most of them were settled by convention with Massachusetts, the New Hampshire authorities asserted an indefinite claim to the territory to the west, to which New York long opposed an equally indefinite claim. (See
—The king's proclamation of Oct. 7, 1763, after constituting the new provinces of Quebec and the Floridas, declared it to be his "royal will and pleasure," as to the territory between them, "to reserve under our sovereignty, protection and dominion, for the use of the said Indians, * * * all the lands and territories lying to the westward of the sources of the rivers which fall into the sea from the west and northwest." This was clearly the establishment of a western boundary for all the colonies which had hitherto had none; and the ground of the establishment was as clearly the asserted right and duty of the king to modify his grants and charters, when their results proved to be injurious to the interests of the empire. The right was always denied by the colonies, and their resistance to it was one of the most powerful forces which led to the revolution; and yet, curiously enough, when independence was established, this very proclamation was asserted by the states which had original western boundaries as a valid assignment of a western boundary for the others.
—Virginia hardly showed an enterprise in asserting western claims commensurate with their magnitude and importance. The first Virginia exploring party crossed the Blue Ridge in 1666; but it was not until 1712, under Spotswood's administration, that the country beyond the mountains was reduced to possession. Before the middle of the eighteenth century, settlements had crossed the mountains. The organization of the Ohio company in 1748-9 was due to individual Virginia enterprise; but in the French and Indian war, which followed it (see
—North Carolina asserted her western claims with more energy and success. The first assertion was due to individual enterprise. The first settlement of Tennessee (see that state) was by hunting parties, and by persons who had found the disturbed state of North Carolina under the royal governor unpleasant. In 1776 their settlements were made "Washington district" of North Carolina; and, as settlements increased, other counties were formed. After the first session, in 1784, the Tennesseans revolted, and formed the state of Franklin, or Frankland; but North Carolina revoked her cession, and suppressed the Franklin revolt. The authority of the state was thus established from the Atlantic to the Mississippi.
—Other colonies dealt in nothing but assertions. None of them made any practical effort to maintain their claim to territory beyond their present western boundary, with two exceptions. Connecticut made a long but finally unsuccessful attempt to oust Pennsylvania from a part of her territory (see
—2. Under the Confederation. The essential importance of the western territory was as a bond for holding the states together during and after the revolution. The revolution was undoubtedly begun under a vague idea of separate state action in theory, with a controlling necessity for national action in practice; and the articles of confederation were carefully framed with the view of securing as much of the former and as little of the latter as possible. (See
—In the beginning congress seems to have had no notion that the western lands were national property. Among its measures to raise an army, Sept. 16, 1776, it promised grants of lands to officers and soldiers, but was careful to provide that the money necessary "to procure such lands" should be assessed upon the states like other expenses. Oct. 15, 1777, before the articles of confederation were proposed to the states, a motion was made in congress to add a provision that congress should be empowered to fix the western boundaries of the claimant states, and to divide the western territory into independent states; but only Maryland voted for it. Clarke's expedition to the Illinois country in 1778, and Virginia's sudden prospect of boundless territorial wealth, threw the apple of discord among the states. Heretofore the claimant states had been content to claim, without taking active steps to enforce their claims; and their extreme demand had been only the negative provision of the ninth article of confederation, that "no state shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States." Ten of the states, all but New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, had already ratified the articles; but most of them had ordered their delegates to propose alterations before signing. When the proposed alterations were considered in congress, June 22-25, 1778, it was found that Maryland proposed to alter the ninth article by empowering congress to fix the western boundaries of the claimant states; that Rhode Island proposed to alter it by empowering congress to sell crown lands within the states; and that New Jersey only protested against the article as it stood, as unfair to the non-claimant states. All amendments were voted down. Eight of the states signed the articles, by their delegates, July 9; North Carolina, July 21; and Georgia, July 24. New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland refused to sign. New Jersey yielded first: her delegates signed the articles, Nov. 26, 1778, relying on "the candor and justice of the several states" for cessions of their claims. The Delaware delegate signed Feb. 22, 1779, protesting at the same time that his state was justly entitled to a share in the territory which had been won "by the blood and treasure of all." Maryland was now the only obstacle, but it proved for some time insuperable. Dec. 15, 1778, that state formally instructed her delegates "not to agree to the confederation," unless the ninth article should be amended as she had desired; and the letter of instructions demanded that the western territory "should be considered as a common property, subject to be parceled out by congress into free, convenient and independent governments, in such manner and at such times as the wisdom of that assembly shall hereafter direct." This seems to have been the first official proposal of that extension of the federal system which had been first suggested in 1777, probably also by Maryland, and which has been the secret of the success of the American policy.
—Maryland held out for three years; and during that time the articles hung fire. At first her opposition threatened to provoke an explosion, for some of the claimant states seem to have been willing to break up the Union rather than surrender their claims. Dec. 19, 1778, Virginia formally offered to put the articles in force with any one or more states which should ratify them as they stood, so that Maryland at least would have been left out of the Union; and Connecticut agreed, April 7, 1779. But Maryland remained firm; and her firmness, and perhaps the discovery that Virginia's claim, if allowed in full, would neutralize those of the northern states, gradually turned the scale of opinion against Virginia. Feb. 19, 1780, New York led the way by empowering her delegates to agree to a western boundary, and relinquishing all claims beyond. The ceded territory was to be held for the use of "such of the United States as shall become members of the federal alliance," and for no other purpose. By this New York really gave up nothing, and gained a certain instead of a doubtful boundary. But the precedent was a promising one, and congress used it to pass a resolution, Sept. 6, 1780, "earnestly recommending" the other claimant states to follow New York's example, and "earnestly requesting" Maryland to ratify and sign the articles. This was followed, Oct. 10, by another resolution, in which congress committed itself to Maryland's proposed extension of the federal system, promising that the territory ceded should be "formed into distinct republican states, which should become members of the federal Union, and have the same rights of sovereignty, freedom and independence as the other states." From this line of policy congress has never swerved, and it has been more successful than stamp acts or Boston port bills in building up an empire.
—In October, 1780, Connecticut offered to cede her claims, reserving a tract along Lake Eric. Jan. 2, 1781, while Arnold was ravaging Virginia, that state offered to cede her claims northwest of the Ohio, on condition that congress would guarantee her possession of Kentucky and the larger part of Tennessee. Neither of these offers was accepted by congress, but the prospect was so encouraging, that Maryland at once empowered her delegates to sign the articles, and they did so, March 1, 1781. On the same day the New York delegates assented to the western boundary of the state, on condition that the same guarantee should be given to New York as to any other state. Thus the articles of confederation went into force without any real settlement of the territorial question, for the only cession likely to be accepted had amounted to nothing.
—Oct. 30, 1779, congress had passed a resolution, against the votes of Virginia and North Carolina, recommending Virginia to close her land office and forbear issuing land warrants until the end of the war. Oct. 29, 1782, the persistent Maryland delegates moved that the cession of New York be accepted by congress, and the motion was carried against the vote of Virginia, North and South Carolina being divided, and Massachusetts having but one delegate and no vote. The purpose of this action was to get a fulcrum from which to operate on the claim of Virginia, and it was effective. The claim of New York to her own territory west of Albany was derived from her supremacy over the "Six Nations"; and this was now recognized by all the states. But the Six Nations had always asserted a general right by conquest to all the territory west of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina. If this also were admitted, it also had passed to New York, and had been ceded by New York to congress; and the whole western territory was already national property, without the formality of a cession by Virginia or any other state. May 1, 1782, a committee had made an elaborate report to congress. It upheld the claim of New York to its full extent; considered the jurisdiction of the whole western territory, including Virginia's claim, to be already vested in congress by New York's cession of it; and recommended Virginia to make a new and full cession. Consideration of the report was postponed, but it was evidently high time for Virginia to cede the northwest territory absolutely and gracefully, if she desired to save Kentucky and her land warrants there.
—The act of cession was passed by the Virginia legislature, Oct. 20, 1783, and the deed was executed by her delegates in congress, March 1, 1784. Under the circumstances, the terms accorded to the state were sufficiently liberal; the land titles of Virginia settlers were to hold good; the expenses of the state in conquering the territory were to be repaid to her; 150,000 acres were reserved for Clarke and his troops; and any deficiency in Virginia land warrants in Kentucky and Tennessee was to be made good in the northwest territory. The ceded territory was to be organized according to the federal policy which congress had outlined in October, 1780. A supplementary act of cession was presented in congress, Dec. 30, 1788; but this was only to conform the original act to the terms of the ordinance of 1787. Virginia's cession was complete in 1784.
—Massachusetts made an unqualified cession of her claims west of Niagara river, April 19, 1785, in accordance with an act of the legislature of Nov. 13, 1784.
—Congress had not as yet accepted Connecticut's proffered cession, on account of the reservation of a tract extending from the Pennsylvania line 120 miles westward. But Connecticut had loyally accepted the award of congress against her in the case of Wyoming (see that title); and congress at last accepted her cession, May 26, 1786. April 28, 1800, an act of congress authorized the president to deed to Connecticut the title to this "western reserve," on condition that Connecticut should surrender all claim to its jurisdiction, and abandon any claim to the territory within the limits of New York; and the state fulfilled the conditions, May 30.
—Aug. 9, 1787, South Carolina made an unqualified cession of her claims west of a line from the head of Tugaloo river to the North Carolina boundary. The actual cession was a strip of land about twelve miles wide. That portion of it which is now a part of Georgia was transferred to that state in part return for its cession in 1802.
—The South Carolina cession closed the formal record of acquisitions of territory under the confederation; but there were two more cessions, which, though made under the constitution, were only belated completions of confederation arrangements. North Carolina ceded Tennessee in 1784; but, before congress could meet, and accept the cession, it was revoked on account of the anger it excited in Tennessee. Five years later, this feeling had disappeared. In December, 1789, the North Carolina legislature made another cession of Tennessee, which was accepted by act of congress of April 2, 1790. The North Carolina titles and military land warrants were to hold good, and the territory was to be organized as the northwest territory had been, "provided always, that no regulations made or to be made by congress shall tend to emancipate slaves."
—Most difficulty was met in the case of the claims of Georgia, covering the present states of Alabama and Mississippi, north of parallel 31° and south of the South Carolina cession. It had been claimed by South Carolina, because the original grant to the Carolina proprietors covered the territory between parallels 31° and 36° west to the South seas. But the proprietors had transferred their rights to the king; the king had formed the colony of Georgia in 1732, and given to it the territory between the Altamaha river and the most northern part of the Savannah, westward to the South seas; and his proclamation of 1763 had annexed to Georgia the territory between the Altamaha and the St. Mary rivers. In 1787 the two states made a treaty at Beaufort, by which South Carolina obtained the territory afterward ceded by her, and Georgia the rest. Georgia took no steps to cede her share to the United States, but made preparations to reduce it to possession. (See
—3. Under the Constitution. This branch of the subject is treated as a separate article: ANNEXATIONS.
—4. Right of Acquisition. It must be evident that there was an essential distinction between the acquisitions of territory under the confederation and under the constitution. In the former case, the so-called "acquisitions" were not really acquisitions at all, and Maryland's position was correct. The territory in question had been conquered by national force, and the nation's title to it had been recognized by the international recognition of its boundaries. The "acquisitions" were merely the removal of the cloud on the title which came from the troublesome claims of the states. Under the constitution, the acquisitions were real acquisitions of originally foreign soil.
—But, in either case, the mere holding and organization of the territory into inchoate states is fatal to the notion of an absolute sovereignty in the states. We may call the nation any question-begging name we will, federal alliance, confederacy, or what not: but it is a nation if it can hold and organize territories, and in due process of time and increase of strength it will be prepared to vindicate its right to existence and respect against all comers. And, on the other hand, if we do not recognize the Untied States as a nation, it is altogether impossible to locate any basis for the right to acquire, hold or organize the territories. Under the confederation, congress had no right to exercise any power not expressly granted to it; and the power to acquire, hold and organize territories is conspicuous by its absence. "All this has been done," says the "Federalist," "and done without the least color of constitutional authority." Under the constitution, congress was, it is true, empowered to "dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory belonging to the United States." (Art. IV., § 3); but all respectable authorities agree that this provision referred only to the territory then (1787-8) "belonging to the United States," and gave no power to make future acquisitions. It might fairly be argued, that, when new acquisitions were made, the power above stated applied to them, as then "belonging to the United States;" but the power to acquire is not there. It is the inherent characteristic of a sovereignty, as it is of the individual person, and in neither case requires a permit by charter. It is clearly stated in a resolution proposed by the Maryland delegates, Sept. 13, 1783, that "the United States are vested, as one undivided and independent nation, with all and every power and right exercised by the king of Great Britain over the said territory;" though only Maryland and New Jersey voted for it. There is but one way to evade this conclusion, by the supposition of a temporary suspension or informal alteration of the organic law. Some such idea is advanced by Judge Taney, in his Dred Scott opinion, when he holds that the states had a right to accept a "cession of territory for their common benefit, which all of them assented to;" and by Jefferson (see
—II. ORGANIZATION OF TERRITORIES. The organization of the territories of the United States has a double object: to provide for good government while the population is sparse; and to encourage their development into self-governing commonwealths, and their incorporation into the federal system, as rapidly as possible. This latter point is the peculiar feature of the American colonial system.
—The organization of the territory northwest of the Ohio, from which have since been formed the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, has been considered elsewhere. (See
—For the territories within the original limits of the United States, the ordinance of 1787 was the model. As the successive territories were carved out of the northwest territory, the fundamental provision of the organizing act was that "there shall be established within the said territory a government in all respects similar to that provided by the ordinance of congress, passed on the 13th day of July, 1787, for the government of the territory of the United States northwest of the river Ohio, and the inhabitants thereof shall be entitled to and enjoy all and singular the rights, privileges and advantages granted and secured to the people by the said ordinance." The organizing act for Wisconsin, in 1836, was the first of these which was very elaborate. In the cases of Tennessee and Mississippi, south of the Ohio, the organizing acts were like the corresponding acts for northern territories, excepting that section of the ordinance of 1787 which forbade slavery; but in the organization of Alabama, in 1817, the ordinance of 1787 is not referred to, unless it is included in the provision that all laws then in force in the territory of Mississippi should remain in force until otherwise provided by law.
—In the organization of the territories acquired under the constitution, and hence beyond the original limits of the United States, it has been necessary to follow a more elaborate scheme of organization than that of the original territories. The first act in relation to Louisiana, in 1803, was simple enough. It merely empowered the president to appoint all civil, military and judicial officers of the new territory, to define their duties, and to support them with the army and navy of the United States. It was in effect the establishment of a military despotism over Louisiana, and may suffice as an example of the extent to which the sovereign power of the United States over the territories might go, if a wiser policy were not the rule. In this case the despotism was only intended to be temporary; and in the following year the territory was properly organized. As this was the model regularly followed afterward, it may be as well to itemize it. 1. The governor was to be appointed by the president for three years, to be the executive, to pardon offenses against territorial laws, and to reprieve offenders against laws of the United States until the president could act. 2. The secretary was to be appointed for four years, to record territorial acts, and to send copies of the governor's acts to the president every six months. 3. The governor and a legislative council of thirteen members, appointed annually by the president, made up the territorial legislature; and its acts were to be sent by the governor to congress, through the president, and, if vetoed by congress, were to be void. 4. The judges were to be appointed for four years (see
—It will easily be understood that such a system exerts, from the beginning of population, a steady pressure toward the exercise of political power by the people; and that it is so self-governing in its action that it can correct the dangers of early border lawlessness, while it gives more and still more power to the people as the population becomes fixed and settled. At the same time the land system of the territories, next to be referred to, has been steadily operating to increase, fix and settle the population. The two, working together, inevitably result in the natural and simple development of states. In this manner nineteen territories have been transformed gradually into states. A list of the ratifications or admissions of the thirty-eight states (1883) is elsewhere given. (See
—There are now, (1883) eight organized territories, all of the first class, Arizona, Dakota, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; two unorganized territories, Indian territory and Alaska; and the district containing the national capital, the District of Columbia, governed directly by congress or its agents. (See the names of these territories.) All of the organized territories are inchoate states; Dakota has already applied for admission; and, unless peculiar circumstances interfere in the case of Utah (see
—It is impossible within reasonable limits, to give the historical geography of the territories, for the changes in their boundaries and areas have been very numerous. For these the reader is referred to the map prefixed to the second volume of Hough's work, cited below, and to the analysis in Walker's statistical atlas of the United States.
—III. LAND SYSTEM. (See
—IV. SLAVERY IN THE TERRITORIES. The prohibition of slavery in the northwest territory is elsewhere given (see ORDINANCE OF 1787); it held good in spite of efforts to evade or abrogate it. (See
—The acquisition of new territory from Mexico brought up a new series of difficulties. (See
—See (I.) Poore's Federal and State Constitutions; Report of Regents on the Boundaries of New York; authorities under the states named; (2) the leading authority under this section is H. B. Adams' Maryland's Influence in Founding a National Commonwealth; other authorities are the Journals of Congress under the dates named; Land Laws of the United States (1828); the authorities given in Adams' notes; Perkins' Annals of the West (1846); Burnet's Notes on the Northwest Territory (1847); Barber and Howe's History of the Western States (1853); Dillon's History of Indiana (1859); Hildreth's Early History of the Northwest (1864); Blanchard's Discovery of the Northwest (1880); Towle's History of the Constitution, 350; 1 Bancroft's History of the Constitution, 168; 1 Curtis' History of the Constitution, 291; St. Clair Papers (1882); 1 Stat. at Large, 106, 549 (acts of April 2, 1790, and April 7, 1798); 2 ib., 56, 69, 229, 305 (acts of April 28, 1800, May 10, 1800, March 3, 1803, and March 27, 1804); the cessions, etc., are also given in 1 Stat. at Large (Bioren and Duane's edit.) (II.) See authorities under ORDINANCE of 1787; the organizing acts in Stat. at Large, as given among the authorities under states and territories named; 2 Hough's American Constitutions (map); Walker's Statistical Atlas of the United States. (III.) See table 4 in 1 Stat. at Large a list of acts of congress in regard to public lands until 1845; Cutts' Constitutional and Party Questions, 161 (Senator Douglas' description of the land system and its operations); Porter's West in 1880, 585; Report of the Commissioner of the Land Office (1875); Johns Hopkins University Studies in Political Science, particularly No. 3, Shaw's Local Government in Illinois. (IV.) See authorities under the states and other articles referred to.
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