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1776 Petition of the Inhabitants of Washington District
To the Hon. the Provincial Congress of North Carolina:
The humble petition of the inhabitants of Washington District, including the River Wautaugah, Nonachuckie, etc., that about six years ago, Col. Donelson, (in behalf of the Colony of Virginia,) held a treaty with the Cherokee Indians, in order to purchase the lands of the Western Frontiers; in consequence of which Treaty, many of our petitioners settled on the lands of the Wataugah, etc., expecting to be within the Virginia line, and consequently hold their lands by their improvements as first settlers; but to their great disappointment, when the lines was run they were (contrary to their expectation) left out; finding themselves thus disappointed, and being too inconveniently situated to remove back, and feeling an unwillingness to loose the labour bestowed on their plantations, they applied to the Cherokee Indians, and leased the land for the term of ten years, before the expiration of which term it appeared that many persons of distinction were actually making purchases forever; thus yielding a precedent, (supposing many of them who were gentlemen of the law, to be better judges of the constitution than we were,) and considering the bad consequences it must be attended with, should the reversion be purchased out of our hands, we next proceeded to make a purchase of the lands, reserving those in our possession in sufficient tracts for our own use, and resolving to dispose of the remainder for the good of the community. This purchase was made and the lands acknowledged to us and our heirs forever, in an open treaty, in Wautaugah Old Fields, a deed being obtained from the Chiefs of the Cherokee nation, for themselves and their whole nation, which deed was for and in consideration of the sum of two thousand pounds sterling, (paid to them in goods,) for which consideration they acknowledged themselves fully satisfied, Contented and paid; and agreed, for themselves, their whole nation, their heirs, etc., forever to resign, warrant and defend said lands to us, and our heirs, etc., against themselves, their heirs, etc.
The purchase was no sooner made, than we were alarmed by the reports of the present unhappy differences between Great Britain and America, on which report, (taking the now united colonies for our guide,) we proceeded to choose a Committee, which was done unanimously by consent of the people. This committee, (willing to become a party in the present unhappy contest) resolved, (which is now on our records,) to adhere strictly to the rules and orders of the Continental Congress, and in open committee acknowledged themselves indebted to the united colonies their full proportion of the Continental expense.
Finding ourselves on the Frontiers, and being apprehensive that, for the want of a proper legislature, we might become a shelter for such as endeavoured to defraud their creditors; considering also the necessity of recording Deeds, Wills, and doing other public business; we, by consent of the people, formed a court for the purposes above mentioned, taking (by desire of our constituents) the Virginia laws for our guide, so near as the situation of affairs could admit; this was intended for ourselves, and was done by the consent of every individual; but, wherever we had to deal with people out of our district, we have ruled them to bail, to abide by our determinations, (which was, in fact, leaving the matter to reference) otherways we dismissed their suit, lest we should in any way intrude on the legislature of the colonies. In short, we have endeavoured so strictly to do justice, that we have admitted common proof against ourselves, on accounts, etc., from the colonies, without pretending a right to require the Colony seal.
We therefore trust we shall be considered as we deserve, and not as we have (no doubt) been many times represented, as a lawless mob -- It is for this very reason we can assure you that we petition: we now again repeat it, that it is want of proper authority to try and punish felons, we can only mention to you murderers, horse-thieves and robbers, we are sorry to say that some of them have escaped us for want of authority. We trust, however, this will not long be the case; and we again repeat it, that its for this reason we petition to this Honourable Assembly.
Above we have given you an abstract of our proceedings, since our settling on the Wataugah, Nonachuckie, etc., in regard to our civil affairs we have shown you the causes of our first settling and the disappointments we have met with, the reason of our lease and of our purchase, the manner in which we purchased, and how we hold of the Indians in fee simple; the causes of our forming a committee, and the legality of its election; the same of our court proceedings, and our reasons for petitioning in regard to our legislature.
We now proceed to give you some account of our military establishments, which were chosen agreeable to the rules established by convention, and officers appointed by the committee. This being done, we thought it proper to raise a company on the District service, as our proportion, to act in the common cause on the seashore. A Company of fine riflemen were accordingly enlisted, and put under Capt. James Robertson, and were actually embodied, when we received sundry letters and depositions (copies of which we now enclose to you,) you will readily judge that there was occasion for them in another place, where we daily expected an attack. We therefore thought proper to station them on our Frontiers, in defense of the common cause, at the expense and risque of our own private fortunes, till further public orders, which we flatter ourselves will give no offence. We have enclosed you sundry proceedings at the station where our men now remain.
We shall now submit the whole to your candid and impartial judgment. We pray your mature and deliberate consideration in our behalf,that you may annex us to your Province, (whether as county, district, or other division,) in such manner as may enable us to share inthe glorious cause of Liberty; enforce our laws under authority, and in every respect become the best members of society; and for ourselves and constituents we hope, we may venture to assure you, that we shall adhere strictly to your determinations, and that nothing will be lacking or any thing neglected, that may add weight (in the civil or military establishments) to the glorious cause in which we are now struggling, or contribute to the welfare of our own or ages yet to come.
That you may strictly examine every part of this our petition, and delay no time in annexing us to your Province, in such manner as your wisdom shall direct, it is the hearty prayer of those who, or themselves and their constituents, as in duty bound shall ever pray.
Signers -- Members of the Committee
Last updated: Wednesday, September 24, 2003
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