John Penn on the Final Year of the Mason-Dixon Line Survey
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Penn advises Joseph Shippen on how best to deal with the inordinate influx of Indian scouts arriving for the famous surveying expedition. While on vacation, he directs the logistics of the survey party and foretells the survey’s running over budget. JOHN PENN.
Autograph Letter Signed, as Governor. Black Point, June 17, 1767, to [Joseph Shippen]. 4 pp.
“I am amazed to find both by your letter ... that so many Indians are expected to accompany the Surveyors in running the line. I had no idea of more than five or six deputies coming down, from what Sr. William Johnson wrote me, nor do I think he himself expected any more would come. I think the best manner of proceeding will be to call the Commissioners together with Mr. [George] Croghan to consult upon a proper method of sending these Indians home again. Six or eight would surely be enough to attend upon the Surveyors. The maintaining of so large a body would not only be very cost expensive, but other inconveniences would unavoidably arise whenever they had any Communication with the white People ... I am afraid our Masters at home will be surprised as it is when the accounts of this business are transmitted to them though I believe everything relating to it, has been managed with as much regard to their interest as possible ...”
Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon began their survey to define the boundaries between Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware in 1763. They continued surveying the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland until October 1767, when they reached a path used by the Iroquois. The survey ended 233 miles from the coast, and was not completed until after the American Revolution.
The following November (1768), Sir William Johnson successfully negotiated the Treaty of Fort Stanwix with the Iroquois, greatly extending the boundary of white settlements westward, past what King George III had established in the Proclamation of 1763. Rather than diminishing frontier violence, the treaty would, over time, exacerbate conflict. According to historian Milton Hamilton, “it was a great gain for Pennsylvania, giving to the Proprietors the land ... westward to Kittanning and Fort Pitt.”