Land Speculation And Plans For Western Colonies
Western schemes.—Before the French and Indian War grants had been made by the British government of lands beyond the Alleghanies, and settlement on the back lands had been favored as a means of opposing, the French and of extending British trade. During the war the frontiers of settlement were contracted, but, in anticipation of victory, new grants were sought and new schemes proposed. Not only were lands desired, but prominent men proposed new colonial governments west of the mountains. Nearly all of the proposals involved territory in the Ohio Valley. After the Albany Congress of 1754 Franklin urged the formation of two barrier colonies in the West. In 1756 Thomas Pownall, ex-governor of New Jersey, made a similar proposal. About the same time Samuel Hazard of Philadelphia promoted the formation of a Presbyterian colony to embrace most of the Ohio Valley and extending across the Mississippi. In 1757 the Greenbrier Company secured 100,000 acres of land on the western waters.
The victory over the French stimulated new speculative and colonizing schemes for the West both in England and America. In June, 1763, the Mississippi Company was formed, composed of prominent Virginians, including Colonel George Washington and Richard Henry Lee. A memorial to the king was drawn asking for 2,500,000 acres on both sides of the lower Ohio, quit rent free for twelve years, and protection by royal forts, on condition of settling two hundred families. Late in 1763 a pamphlet published in Edinborough, Scotland, proposed a colony named Charlotiana, to include the country between the Wabash, Ohio, Mississippi, and the Great Lakes. About the same time Charles Lee proposed a colony on the Illinois and another on the Ohio.
Effect of the Proclamation.—The Proclamation of 1763 closing the Trans-Alleghany country to settlement seems to have checked for a time the schemes for speculation. The Proclamation contained an implied promise that the boundary would be revised, while it was well known that influential politicians in England favored the opening of the West. New schemes for western lands, therefore, were not long suppressed. In 1766 William Franklin, governor of New Jersey, launched a plan for two colonies, one at Detroit, the other on the lower Ohio. Through the aid of Benjamin Franklin, father of the governor, the Ohio country was favored by the Board of Trade, but in 1768 the plan dropped from sight. Meanwhile many other land companies were formed.
A policy of expansion adopted.—The policy of the ministry regarding the West was vacillating, and more so, no doubt, because of the pressure of conflicting interests. But in 1768 the ministry decided on a definite plan for western settlement, the principle being that expansion should be gradual and under control of imperial agents, who should purchase land from the Indians as needed. Johnson and Stuart, Indian superintendents, had already made tentative arrangements for revising the proclamation line. In 1765 the Six Nations ceded their claims to lands between the Ohio and the Tennessee. Stuart, by a series of treaties, secured a line from the southern boundary of Virginia to the St. Mary's River. Florida, thence along the tidewater line to the Appalachicola River. West of that point the line was not completed, but important cessions were made along the Mobile coast. In 1768 the former lines were ratified, and Stuart, in two treaties with the Cherokees and Creeks (October, November, 1768), secured the extension of the line to the mouth of the Kanawha River on the north and to the Choctaw River on the south. At Fort Stanwix in 1768 the Iroquois ratified essentially their cession of 1765. The lines did not correspond, since the Iroquois cession included Western Tennessee and Kentucky, which were not within the other cessions. Meanwhile the southern line was modified by the treaty of Lochaber by running it west along the southern boundary of Virginia to the Holston River, thence direct to the mouth of the Kanawha. The purpose of the change was to take in the recently formed Watauga settlement.
Vandalia.—Having extinguished the Indian titles, it was now possible to found a new colony back of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and such a project was put on foot. Samuel Wharton of Philadelphia formed a company for the purpose of purchasing part of the lands. The company included some of the leading men in England and America, among them being Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Walpole. Official aid was enlisted by including two members of the ministry. In 1769 the purchase was made, and, in spite of Lord Hillsborough's opposition, by 1775 the project of a new and separate province named Vandalia had been approved by king and council. The outbreak of the Revolution set the plan aside. Had it been carried out it would have cut Virginia off from her back lands. The Quebec Act of 1774 operated in the same direction, by attaching the Northwest to Quebec. Virginia therefore resisted. Governor Dunmore opposed the Vandalia colony, made grants of land both within and beyond it, and joined a company which purchased Indian lands north of the Ohio.
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