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Indiana Historical Bureau

IHB > About Indiana - History and Trivia > Explore Indiana History by Topic > Indiana Documents Leading to Statehood > The Virginia Cession The Virginia Cession

On January 2, 1781, Virginia offered to cede her northwestern lands but attached conditions unacceptable to Congress. On December 20, 1783, the Virginia legislature modified its position and passed the Virginia Act of Cession. The other states with western claims subsequently relinquished them, in several instances stipulating reserves. The Virginia Deed of Cession was formally delivered to and accepted by Congress on March 1, 1784:10

(March 1, 1784)

To all who shall see these presents, we Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Hardy, Arthur Lee and James Monroe the underwritten delegates for the Commonwealth in Virginia, in the Congress of the United States of America, send Greeting:

Whereas the general assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia at their sessions begun on the 20th day of October, 1783, passed an act, entitled "An Act to authorize the delegates of this State in Congress to convey to the United States in Congress assembled, all the right of this commonwealth, to the territory northwestward of the river Ohio." in these words following to wit:

"Whereas the Congress of the United States did, by their act of the sixth day of September in the year 1780, recommend to the several states in the Union, having claims to waste and unappropriated land in the western country, a liberal cession to the United States, of a portion of their respective claims for the common benefit of the Union: and whereas this Commonwealth did, on the 2d day of January, in the year 1781, yield to the Congress of the Unites States, for the benefit of the said states, all right, title and claim which the said Commonwealth had to the territory northwest of the river Ohio, subject to the conditions annexed to the said act of cession. And whereas the United States in Congress assembled, have, by their act of the 13th of September last, stipulated the terms on which they agree to accept the cession of this State, should the legislature approve thereof, which terms, although they do not come fully up to the propositions of this Commonwealth, are conceived on the whole, to approach so nearly to them, as to induce this State to accept thereof, in full confidence, that Congress will in justice to this State, for the liberal cession she hath made, earnestly press upon the other states claiming large tracts of waste and uncultivated territory, the propriety of making cessions, equally liberal, for the common benefit and support of the union. Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that it shall and may be lawful for the delegates of this State, to the Congress of the United States, or such of them as shall be assembled in Congress, and the said delegates, or such of them so assembled, are hereby fully authorized and empowered, for and on behalf of this State, by proper deeds or instrument in writing, under their hands and seals, to convey, transfer, assign and make over unto the United States in Congress assembled, for the benefit of the said states, all right, title and claim, as well of soil as jurisdiction, which this Commonwealth hath to the territory or tract of country within the limits of the Virginia charter, situate, lying and being to the northwest of the river Ohio, subject to the terms and conditions contained in the before recited act of Congress, of the 13th day of September last; that is to say, upon condition that the territory so ceded, shall be laid out and formed into states, containing a suitable extent of territory, not less than one hundred, nor more than one hundred and fifty miles square, or as near thereto as circumstances will admit; and that the states so formed, shall be distinct republican states, and admitted members of the federal union; having the same rights of sovereignty, freedom and independence, as the other states. That the necessary and reasonable expenses incurred by this State, in subduing any British posts, or in maintaining forts or garrisons within, and for the defence, or in acquiring any part of the territory so ceded or relinquished, shall be fully reimbursed by the United States: and that one commissioner shall be appointed by Congress, one by this Commonwealth, and another by those two commissioners, who, or a majority of them, shall be authorized and empowered to adjust and liquidate the account of the necessary and reasonable expenses incurred by this State, which they shall judge to be comprised within the intent and meaning of the act of Congress, of the 10th of October, 1780, respecting such expenses. That the French and Canadian inhabitants, and other settlers of the Kaskaskies, St. Vincents, and the neighboring villages who have professed themselves citizens of Virginia, shall have their possessions and titles confirmed to them, and be protected in the enjoyment of their rights and liberties. That a quantity not exceeding one hundred and fifty thousand acres of land, promised by this State, shall be allowed and granted to the then Colonel, now General George Rogers Clark, and to the officers and soldiers of his regiment, who marched with him when the posts of Kaskaskies and St. Vincents were reduced, and to the officers and soldiers that have been since incorporated into the said regiment, to be laid off in one tract, the length of which not to exceed double the breadth, in such place on the northwest side of the Ohio, as a majority of the officers shall choose, and to be afterwards divided among the said officers and soldiers in due proportion, according to the laws of Virginia. That in case the quantity of good lands on the southeast side of the Ohio, upon the waters of Cumberland river, and between the Green river and Tennessee river, which have been reserved by law for the Virginia Troops upon continental establishment, should, from the North Carolina line, bearing in further upon the Cumberland lands than was expected, prove insufficient for their legal bounties, the deficiency should be made up to the said troops, in good lands, to be laid off between the rivers Scioto, and Little Miami, on the northwest side of the river Ohio, in such proportions as have been engaged to them by the laws of Virginia. That all the lands within the territory so ceded to the United States, and not reserved for or appropriated to any of the before-mentioned purposes, or disposed of in bounties to the officers and soldiers of the American army, shall be considered as a common fund for the use and benefit of such of the United States, as have become or shall become members of the confederation or federal alliance of the said states, Virginia inclusive, according to their usual respective proportions in the general charge and expenditure, and shall be faithfully and bona fide disposed of for that purpose, and for no other use or purpose whatsoever. Provided that the trust hereby reposed in the delegates of this State, shall not be executed, unless three of them at least are present in Congress."

And whereas the said general assembly, by their resolution of June 6th, 1783, had constituted and appointed us the said Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Hardy, Arthur Lee, and James Monroe, delegates to represent the said Commonwealth in Congress for one year, from the first Monday in November then next following, which resolution remains in full force: Now therefore know ye that we the said Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Hardy, Arthur Lee, and James Monroe, by virtue of the power and authority committed to us by the act of the said general assembly of Virginia before recited, and in the name, and for and on behalf of the said Commonwealth, do by these presents convey, transfer, assign, and make over unto the United State in Congress Assembled, for the benefit of the said states, Virginia inclusive, all right, title and claim, as well of soil as of jurisdiction, which the said Commonwealth hath to the territory or tract of country within the limits of the Virginia charter, situate, lying and being to the northwest of the river Ohio, to and for the uses and purposes, and on the conditions of the said recited act. In testimony whereof, we have hereunto subscribed our names and affixed our seals, in Congress, the [first] day of [March] in the year of our Lord one thousand and seven hundred and eight-four, and of the independence of the United States the eight."

10 ibid., XXVI, 113-117; Charles Kettleborough (ed.), Constitution Making in Indiana . . . (2 vols., Indianapolis, 1916), I, 9-15; Clarence E. Carter (ed.), The Territorial Papers of the United States (vols. I-, Washington, 1934- ), II, 6-9.