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Tennessee were farther off from the home colony and had less in common with them. The relations of Watauga to North Carolina were not pleasant from the first, and the friction increased through the Revolutionary period. North Carolina did little to defend the county against Indians or Tories, but when the need arose, the Watauga people, under the leadership of Sevier, Shelby, and Robertson, showed themselves capable of self-defence. The Watauga settlers realized that they were gaining nothing from their dependence upon North Carolina and that the parent State was paying its own debts by giving away their lands. Restlessness bred during the Revolution was greatly increased when North Carolina ceded Watauga to the Union in such a manner that it was left practically without a government. This act led to the formation of the State of Franklin, which will be considered later.
The relations between Virginia and the settlements to the West were more cordial. There could be little material aid from Virginia because of the severe strain on her resources in the struggle in the East; but the Indian raids called forth the expedition of George Rogers Clark against the marauders, an expedition sent out under the auspices of the Virginia government. The Virginia government built a fort on Mississippi River, as a defence against the Indians, on what it regarded as the limits of its colony. Through the Revolution Virginia and Kentucky were on the best of terms. Jefferson, as governor of Virginia and as a private citizen, was always interested in Kentucky. In 1780 he secured a large gift of land for the work of education. When the proper time came for separation and the formation of Kentucky into a separate State, there was no suggestion of dislike for Virginia and the request was cordially received by that State.
LAND CESSIONS OF THE STATES
THE treaty of peace in 1783 defined the boundaries of the new nations but the distribution of the unappropriated portion of the national domain among several States formed one of the most serious questions with which the confederation had to deal. The section in controversy was that part of the country bounded on the west by the Mississippi and extending to the east as far as the western settlements of the States. Every State claimed all the land which had come to it by charter, except that the sea-to-sea claims were now limited on the west by Mississippi River. The liberality of the English kings in giving away what had cost them nothing and the carelessness with which the lines between the colonies were defined was now to cause much trouble. The important part of the original grant was, in all cases, on or near the sea coast. At the time the charters were granted, no one anticipated territorial conflicts in the far interior, for the time seemed remote when these transmountain districts would be needed for settlement. The Massachusetts grant was sixty miles wide along the coast and extended through to the Pacific. The Connecticut charter gave an equally liberal western extension. Both were subsequently modified by royal grants of land comprised within their limits.
After the conquest of New Amsterdam by the English, Charles II. bestowed this territory upon his brother, the
Duke of York. This cession was recognized by the two eastern States and they relinquished their claim to what is now eastern New York, but still asserted their ownership to the country to the west. Massachusetts considered as its territory the southern parts of what were later the States of Michigan and Wisconsin, while Connecticut held that northern Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois were a part of its territory, and also claimed the valley of Wyoming in Pennsylvania. This latter territory was, however, in 1782, adjudged to Pennsylvania.
The northern and southern boundaries of the lands claimed by Massachusetts and Connecticut were parallel lines but their nearest neighbor in the west, Virginia, was not content with any such narrow limits. The Virginian charter was drawn up in a way that was conveniently ambiguous for that State, though somewhat uncomfortable for her neighbors. The grant of 1609 gave to Virginia "all those lands, countries and territories situate, lying and being in that part of America called Virginia, from the point of land called Cape or Point Comfort, all along the seaboard to the northward 200 miles, and from the said Point or Cape Comfort all along the seashore to the southward 200 miles; and all that space and circuit of land lying on the seacoast of the precinct aforesaid, up into the land throughout, from sea to sea, west and northwest." This was a generous grant under any interpretation of the terms, but the extent of territory included in it would vary greatly according to the understanding of the words "west and northwest." If the southern line extended west and the northern line northwest, then the sides of the grant would form a trapezium, the eastern and western lines being on the Atlantic and the Pacific shores. But if the northern line extended directly west and the southern line northwest, the limits of the colony would be formed by a triangle, with one angle somewhere in the Alleghany Mountains. With this second interpretation, Virginia would have a territory of about the size of Pennsylvania, but if the first were allowed there would
belong to it practically all the northwest. Naturally Virginia took the large view, but the other States understood the charter to give the smaller territory. But this was not all the claim that Virginia had. George Rogers Clark had conquered the northwest under commission of the Virginian government and the money for the expedition had been paid by Virginia. Besides this, there were flourishing settlements from Virginia already established in the disputed territory. So there was the triple claim of charter right, conquest, and settlement, and we cannot wonder that Virginia held tenaciously to this splendid western empire.
North and South Carolina claimed from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and Georgia's claim was equally large but unsubstantial. This back country was in dispute between the Spaniards and the Indians, so that Oglethorpe's new and turbulent colony had little influence there. North Carolina's claim included the present State of Tennessee, and in addition to its charter claims it could point to the settlements already made by Carolinians on the land claimed by the State and to the part which these western mountaineers had taken in defending this land during the Revolution. At the time. when the colonies organized a Federal government there were then these six States: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, claiming a western extension bounded by the Mississippi. Of the remaining colonies, New York had a large, but illfounded, claim as the heir of the Iroquois. The land affected by this claim was in the northwest and had been at one time under the nominal control of the Iroquois; New York acquired this by treaty. All the Indians in the region between Lake Erie and the Cumberland Mountains had been tributary to this powerful tribe, and so New York asserted control of their lands also. This claim was not so good as that of Virginia, and it came in conflict with the territorial pretensions of Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. There remained New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, which by
the nature of their charters, had definite boundaries, and so could make no pretensions to western lands. But their limits were not so clearly defined as to prevent quarrels with their neighbors.
It was evident that with these conflicting claims, to pass upon the question of ownership and control would be one of the most difficult problems before the new nation. There were sharp jealousies between the small and large States, even as they existed, without considering the western land question, and, if Virginia and North Carolina were to have in addition to the land to which they had undisputed claim, these great undefined sections in the west, there seemed a threat of danger to States so limited in area as Delaware and New Jersey. The great States by combining could easily crush the smaller ones. They could offer such inducements in the way of large grants of fertile lands that they would not only attract all emigration into their own territory, but would even cause the small States to lose their population. Under our present government, where the smaller States are so carefully guarded, these fears seem to us groundless; but they were real dangers in the uncertain period following the war, when the Confederation was but a rope of sand and the several States too jealous of their own powers and privileges to grant sufficient power to a national government. This selfishness long threatened to prevent the ratification of the Constitution, and seemed to be an obstacle to any satisfactory unity. How this obstacle to union became one of the strongest bonds of union is a story which is as creditable to the good sense as to the generosity of those who took part in the settlement of the problem.
The representatives of the States without western lands argued that independence had been won by the action of all the colonies and that only through independence was there any value to the claims in the west. In other words, the few States which had the early sea-to-sea charters or which in some other way had gained land in the west had