Front Page Titles (by Subject) DRAFT OF AN ORDINANCE ESTABLISHING A LAND OFFICE FOR THE UNITED STATES 2 - The Works, vol. 4 (Notes on Virginia II, Correspondence 1782-1786)
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DRAFT OF “AN ORDINANCE ESTABLISHING A LAND OFFICE FOR THE UNITED STATES” 2 - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 4 (Notes on Virginia II, Correspondence 1782-1786) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 4.
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DRAFT OF “AN ORDINANCE ESTABLISHING A LAND OFFICE FOR THE UNITED STATES”2
[April 30, 1784.]
Be it ordained by the United States in Congress assembled, that the territory ceded by individual States to the United States, when the same shall have been purchased of the Indian inhabitants, & laid off into States, shall be disposed of in the following manner. It shall be divided into Hundreds of ten geographical miles square, each mile containing 6086 feet and four tenths of a foot, by lines to be run & marked due North & South, & others crossing these at right angles, the first of which lines, each way, shall be at ten miles distance from one of the corners, of the State within which they shall be. But if the Indian purchase shall not have included any one of the corners of the state, the lines shall then be run at the termination of integral miles as measured from some one of the corners, but shall be extended, by actual marks, only so far as the purchase extends. These Hundreds shall be subdivided into lots of one mile square each, or 850 acres and four tenths of an acre by marked lines running in like manner due North & South and others crossing these at right angles.
For laying off the said territory, Surveyors shall be appointed by Congress, or the Committee of the States, who shall proceed forthwith, under the direction of the Register hereafter to be mentioned, to divide the same into hundreds, by lines in the directions, & at the intervals before mentioned, which lines shall be measured with a chain, shall be plainly marked by Chops, or marks on the trees & shall be exactly described on the plat, whereon shall be noted at their proper distances, all watercourses, mountains & other remarkeable & permanent things over or near which such lines shall pass.
The Hundreds being laid off and marked, nine of them shall be assigned as a district to each surveyor, who shall then proceed to divide each Hundred of his district into lots as before directed, beginning with the Hundreds most in demand, and measuring, marking & platting the said dividing lines thereof in the manner before directed for the Hundreds, save only that the lines of the lots shall be distinguished by a single mark on each tree, and those of the hundreds by three marks. And that the sd lots may be capable of more accurate description and distinction from each other, those in every Hundred shall be designated by the numbers in their order from 1. to 100, beginning at the Northwestern lot of the Hundred & applying the numbers from 1 to 10. to the lots of the first row from West to East successively, those from 11 to 20, to the lots of the second row from West to East & so on. The surveyors shall pay due & constant attention to the variation of the magnetic meridian, & shall run & note all lines by the true meridian, certifying with every plat what was the variation at the time of running the lines thereon noted.
A Register shall be appointed by Congress for each of the states within which the said territory shall lie, who shall keep his office within the said state, be resident at it himself & provide a seal for authenticating it’s acts, to him returns shall be made by the several surveyors on the last days of March & August in every year, of the plats of all lines, measured & marked by them in the preceeding half year, to be by him collated, and reduced into a general map of the whole state for which he acts. He shall annually, to wit, on the first Monday in November of every year, deliver, or cause to be delivered to the Secretary of Congress, a copy of such portions of the said general map as shall have been formed, or further filled up, during the preceeding year, retaining one in his own office for the use thereof. He shall have power to suspend any surveyor for negligence or malversation, making report thereof to Congress, or a Committee of the states, that they may direct a proper enquiry.
Each Register shall cause to be printed under such devices, difficult of imitation, as he shall think best, warrants, each of which shall give right to one lot of a mile square described as before directed: and other warrants for each of the said states which shall give right, each of them, to one of the Hundreds of ten mile square as before described. These warrants shall have blanks for names & dates, shall be numbered and signed by the Register, sealed with the seal of his office & shall be cut with indentures from a book, the margin of which shall be numbered in correspondence with the warrant cut therefrom, & which shall be preserved in the office as a further check. The sd warrants shall be deposited in the Treasury of the United States, and the Treasurer thereon debited with them, from thence they shall be sent in such numbers as the Register issuing them shall direct, to the Commissioner of the loan office for the United States in each of the states with in the Union, the Treasurer countersigning them on parting therewith & having a credit duly entered in his own account with the United States, & a debit against the loan officer to whom they are sent.
Any person, chusing to become a purchaser of lands within the said territory & paying to the Treasurer or loan officer, the sum of dollars, shall receive in lieu thereof one of the sd smaller warrants entitling him to a lot, on paying dollars, shall receive in lieu thereof one of the said larger warrants entitling him to a whole Hundred within the State from which the warrant issued; the Treasurer or loan officer inserting the name of the purchaser in the proper blank, filling up the date, & attesting the warrant by his own subscription. Loan Office certificates, reduced to their specie value by the scale of depreciation on certificates of liquidated debts of the United States, shall be receivable for the sd. warrants in lieu of money; and evidences of military rights to lands herein after to be described, shall be receivable instead of the price itself of so much land.
These warrants shall pass by descent or decree as real property.
These warrants shall pass as lands, by descent or devise, but not by assignment nor by survivorship.
The owner of any warrant proceeding to locate the same, shall deliver it to the Surveyor of the district, wherein his location is to be, describing to him the particular lot on which he places it, or the Hundred, if it be a warrant for a hundred, by a designation of some point, either natural or artificial, within the said lot or Hundred, so singular & certain as may be adapted to no other lot or Hundred or by reference to the position of the Hundred, or number of the lot, which description the surveyor shall immediately enter in a book well bound, with the date of the entry describing the warrant located thereon by its number, date, signatures & name of the original owner and leaving no blank space or leaf between that & the preceeding entry, nor any margin by its side. If the location be made before the lot or hundred be yet laid off by lines actually new & marked, the Surveyor shall retain the warrant in his hands until the Hundred, if it be for a Hundred, or until all the lots of the Hundred, if it be for a lot, shall be actually laid off by marked lines: and then, or at the time of the entry, if the lines were marked before the entry was made, having satisfied himself by proper evidence or by his own inspection & examination, on what particular lot, or on what Hundred the location is, and that there has been no previous location on the same he shall give to the party a certificate, describing the lot or Hundred so specially as that it may be known from all others, by particular marks or circumstances, natural or artificial by stating the order or position of the Hundred relatively to the boundaries of the State, and specifying the lot by it’s number: with which certificate he shall return the warrant also to the party. These being delivered to the Register, & the warrant examined, & found genuine by him, he shall give a receipt for the same, and in due time proceed to execute a grant of the land in the following form. “A. B. register of the land office of the United States within the State of — to all to whom these presents shall come, greeting. Know ye that for good consideration there is granted by the United States of America unto C. D. a certain lot [or Hundred of land as the case shall be, describing it from the certificate] within the said State of — to have & to hold the said lot, [or Hundred] of land, with its appurtenances, to him the sd C. D. & his heirs for ever. In witness whereof the sd A. B. register of the land office of the sd State hath hereunto set his hand, and caused the seal of this office to be affixed, this — day of — in the year — and of the independance of the United States the — which grant shall be entered of record, at full length, in good, well bound, books to be provided for that purpose, at the expense of the United States, & kept by the Register, and being so entered, shall be certified to have been registered, & then be delivered to the party or his order. Different lots adjoining side by side within the same Hundred, may be included & passed by the same grant; but separate lots & lots in different Hundreds, as also different Hundreds, shall be passed by different grants, no fractions of a lot shall be granted, unless where such fractions are occasioned by the boundary of the State, or of the Indian conveyance, until a temporary Government shall be established in any State according to the resolutions of Congress of April — 1784. The lands therein shall pass, in descent & dower according to the customs known in the common law by the name of Gavelkind; and shall be transferrable by deed or will proved by two witnesses, but so soon as a temporary Government shall be so established they shall become subject to the laws of the State, & shall never after, in any case, revert to the United States. Where a grant shall be made out to the heir or devisee of the person in whose name the warrant was originally issued, he shall be named in the sd grant as heir or devisee.
For preventing hasty, & surreptitious titles, the Register shall execute no grant for lands until the warrant & certificate delivered him for the same shall have remained in his office months, at any time within which period any person, claiming the same lands under a prior location, shall be at liberty, to enter a caveat, with the Register, against the execution of any grant to the other, setting forth in the entry a copy of the location under which himself claims. The Register shall thereupon issue a Summons, reciting the entry made with him & calling the defendant to appear at a certain time & place, in defence of his right, which Summons being served, & the parties appearing he shall refer the decision to three arbitrators to be chosen by them, or if they cannot agree, then to three intelligent honest & indifferent persons to be named by himself; which arbitrators being first sworn to do justice between the parties according to the best of their knowledge and abilities by the Register who is hereby authorized to administer such oath, shall proceed thereon, at such times & places, as they shall appoint, giving notice thereof to the parties, & their award being rendered, the Register shall execute a grant to the plaintiff or defendant, conformably therewith. The party whose location is annulled shall be authorized to receive again his warrant, & to locate it on other lands. If the defendant, being summoned, or the plaintiff, fails to appear by himself or another before the Register on the day appointed the Register may give a further day, or in his descretion may proceed on the evidence before him to execute a grant to the party having the right. If the defendant fails to appear, & there be no sufficient proof that the Summons has been served, the Register shall issue a new Summons, unless it shall be proved that he hath been sought at the usual place of his dwelling & hath not been found in which case the Summons shall be advertised three times in some gazette of the State wherein he then resides or last was known to reside giving a new day of appearance, which shall not be within less than months after the date of the last third publication, and on his failing to appear at that day, the Register shall proceed to decision. But in case of a decision against the defendant, where there was no actual service of the Summons, he shall be allowed at any time, within one year after such decision a rehearing before arbitrators to be appointed & qualified as directed in the case of an appearance. But on such rehearing the mere right alone shall be tried.
The Register together with the map before directed to be delivered annually to the Secretary of Congress, shall report a Calendar of all grants executed by him, stating in different columns thereof the date, grantee, quantity, how much of that was for military service, the Hundred, & Lot. The monies arising from the sale of warrants shall be applied to the sinking such part of the principal of the National debt as Congress shall from time to time direct & to no other purpose whatsoever.
The Register, before he enters on the duties of his office, shall give such bond & security for the faithful discharge thereof as Congress, or the Committee of the states, shall approve, and shall be entitled to receive, for the execution of every grant, dollar, for every Lot the same shall contain or dollars if it be for a whole Hundred; which shall be paid at the time he receives the warrant & certificate, & shall be deemed satisfaction for all the services & expenses of his office, except the purchase of books for registering grants & of the seal of his office.
Every Surveyor shall also, before he enters on the duties of his office give such bond and security for the faithful discharge thereof as Congress, or the Committee of the states shall approve & shall be entitled to receive for every Lot located with him dollars and dollars for a whole Hundred which shall be paid at the time of location, & shall be deemed satisfaction for all the services & expences of his office. But where he shall have admitted more location than one on the same land he shall restore the fees received from the party whose location shall be set aside.
A surveyor desiring to locate lands for himself shall make such location with the Register.
And whereas Congress by their resolutions of Sep. 16. 1776 & Aug. 12, 1780 stipulated grants of land to the officers & souldiers who should engage the service of the United States, and continue therein to the close of the war or until discharged by Congress & to the representatives of such officers & souldiers as should be slain by the enemy, in the following proportions, to wit, to a Major General 1100 acres, to a Brigedier 850, to a Colonel 500, to a Lt. Colonel 450, to a Major 400, to a Captain 300, to a Lieutenant 200, to an Ensign 150, & to a noncommissioned officer or souldier 100. For complying therefore with such stipulation, & for ascertaining the evidence of rights accruing under the same which shall be receivable instead of money, it is ordained that the evidence to be required from commissioned officers shall be a certificate from the War office of their rank and continuance in service to the end of the war & from non commissioned officers & souldiers a certificate from the captain of their Company, countersigned by the officer who commanded commanding officer of their regiment at the time of their discharge, that they were enlisted into the service of the United States, during the war, & continued therein to the close of it to wit, to the day of 1783 & from the representatives of such officers & souldiers as were slain by the enemy, a certificate, from the same authority of the rank, or term of enlistment of the deceased, & that he was slain by the enemy, together with satisfactory affidavits that they are his representatives: which evidences shall be receivable by the treasurer Loan officer of the United States in the state to the line of which he belonged, or by the Treasurer if he belonged to the line of no state: and on the warrant issued shall be an endorsement signed by the Treasurer or Loan officer declaring the proportion thereof which was satisfied by military service; and in the same proportion shall all fees be abated to which that warrant would otherwise be subject. The proceedings on it in all other respects shall be the same as on a warrant issued wholly for money.
Saving and conforming always to all Officers & souldiers entitled to lands on the Northern side of the Ohio, by donation or bounty from the commonwealth of Virginia & to all persons claiming under them all rights to which they are so entitled by the laws of the said state & the acts of Congress accepting the cession of Western territory from the sd state.
[2 ]Endorsed: “Report of Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Williamson, Mr. Howell, Mr. Gerry, Mr. Read. An Ordinance for ascertaining the mode of locating & disposing of Lands in the Western territory. Read April 30, 1784. Friday May 7, assigned.”