WASHINGTON, George. Letter signed ("G:o Washington") as President to Governor Samuel Huntington, New York, 30 August 1789. 1 full page, folio, integral blank with recipient's docket. In very fine condition.
OPENING WESTERN LANDS FOR SETTLEMENT: CONGRESS APPROVES THE FIRST SURVEY OF THE NORTHWEST TERRITORY
WASHING COMMITS A CONSTITUTIONAL BLUNDER, by forwarding the Treaty of Harmar to the states before it is officially ratified by the Senate. A circular letter issued very early under the new Constitution (only six days after the adoption of the Bill of Rights), by which the President transmits a resolve approving "A Survey directed by an Act of the late Congress," providing for the survey of the Northwest Territory, and the appointment of a head surveyor (signed by Washington on 28 August), and an act concerning treaties with certain Indian tribes in that region. To Huntington, Washington writes: "I have the honor to transmit to your Excellency a Resolution of Congress for carrying into effect a Survey directed to be made by an Act of the late Congress--and requesting the President of the United States to appoint a proper person to compleat [sic] the same. Also the duplicate of an Act relative to Negotiations and Treaties with the Indian Tribes." (Later, realizing he had proceeded without the constitutionally mandated approval, Washington wrote the Senate on 17 September, urging prompt ratification; the Senate approved it--the first U.S. treaty under the Constitution--three days later).
The Northwest Territory--comprising present-day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota--became part of the United States under the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War. Two years later, Congress directed that those extensive and potentially valuable lands be surveyed into townships, these to be subdivided and sold, with a portion set aside for grant to Revolutionary War veterans. This was followed by the 1787 Northwest Ordinance, which stipulated a system of governance for new territories; once they had 60,000 voting residents, they might be admitted as new states. On August 26, 1788, Congress had resolved on a formal survey of the territory, though it was not adopted until the new government under the Constitution convened. Here, the president transmits the enabling act. Not in Fitzpatrick or Papers. Provenance: Charles Hamilton, sale 14 November 1974, lot 342.