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Manuscript Collection

Collection Title: U.S. Congress. Committee on the Public Lands Report

Collection Number: M228

Dates: February 3, 1816/February 12, 1816

Volume: 2 items

Provenance: Unknown

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States.

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Great Britain controlled the Mississippi Territory from 1764 to 1780. By right of conquest, the area then came under Spanish control. This arrangement was ratified in 1783 by a treaty between the Spanish and British governments. This arrangement set the northern boundary of the Mississippi Territory at the 31st degree north latitude. In 1783 and again in 1785, Spain acknowledged the 31st degree as the northern border but continued to exercise control of the area between the 31st and 32nd degree north latitude. The United States took a renewed interest in these lands after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, which gave this section a significance it had not had before (strategic areas on the Mississippi River could be utilized to facilitate the transportation of produce to market). Conflicting titles to the land were the result of the area having changed hands frequently.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of a report by the Committee on Public Lands (dated February 3, 1816) dealing with the petitions of the people of the Mississippi Territory for compensation from Creek Indian depredations. Also included in the collection is another report from the Committee on Public Lands (dated February 12, 1816) making a request of the legislature of the Mississippi Territory to adjust land claims in the territory.

The report of the Committee dated February 3, 1816 recommends that the petitions by Mississippi territory residents for compensation due to Creek Indian depredations (and the depredations of American troops) be denied. The Committee felt that if compensation were made on general principle, a dangerous precedent for other such claims would be established.

The second report (dated February 12, 1816) concluded that British grants and titles were superior to Spanish grants and titles since Spain only administered (but did not own) the area between the 31st and 32nd degree north latitude.

The Committee also recommended that a tribunal be appointed to decide the validity of individual British claims and to decide on compensation to settlers (with Spanish grants) who had improved and farmed the land.

The February 12th report contains a list of non-residents for whom claims to British grants had been filed with the register of the land office in Washington, Mississippi, capital of the Territory.


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Revised: December 14, 2004