J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Washington’s Map of the Area around Mount Vernon

The Christie’s auction that will include the Ethan Allen letter I mentioned yesterday also offers this map of the area around Mount Vernon, apparently drawn up by George Washington himself. Certainly that’s his writing at top, the notes of a trained surveyor.

The names of landowners written on the map date it to before 1769. Eventually Washington would buy a lot of the land around the estate he inherited, nearly doubling its holdings.

Another Washington item up for sale, the draft of a petition to Gov. Dunmore, also involves expanding his land holdings. During the French & Indian War, the previous royal governor of Virginia had promised that the colony’s soldiers could share in 200,000 acres in the Ohio River Valley.

By 1771, that land had still not been assigned. Washington complained that the mandated surveying was too slow and cumbersome, and suggested an alternative way of assigning land. He also complained that the delays so far were burdening veterans (such as himself) with unfair costs when they really deserved the best treatment.

Dunmore and his Council rejected this petition, which apparently only confirmed Washington’s suspicion that royal authorities didn’t treat Virginian gentlemen (such as himself) with proper respect. Even after he got his wish in 1772, this sort of grievance lingered in his memory.

Yet another item in the same auction is a copy of the Declaration of Independence printed by John Gill of Boston in July 1776. A different copy of this now-rare printing sold for well over half a million dollars a couple of years ago, PhiloBiblos reports.

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