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Declaration Signers Benjamin Harrison & George Wythe Appointing Surveyor Licensed by the College of William and Mary for Western Virginia
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This commission is to be nul & void provided the present Surveyor, who is supposed to be killed by the Indians, shall be alive to return. The nullity to commence from the return of Mr Madison

The College of William and Mary’s 1693 Royal Charter provided a revenue stream by appointing the College as the Surveyor-General of the Colony of Virginia, with the right to collect fees for each survey performed. (George Washington, in 1749, and Thomas Jefferson, in 1773, were both licensed by the College as surveyors.) Here, the President and Professors of the College nominate Samuel Hanway as Surveyor of Monongalia County in western Virginia, and Governor Benjamin Harrison appoints him two months later, provided that the old surveyor has actually been “killed by the Indians.

BENJAMIN HARRISON. GEORGE WYTHE. Partially Printed Document signed by President of the College of William and Mary the Reverend James Madison, and professors George Wythe, Robert Andrews and Charles Belleni, April 8, 1783. Followed by: two Benjamin Harrison Partially Printed Documents Signed and a Manuscript Document Signed as Governor of Virginia, June 3, 1783. 2 pp., 8¼ x 13 in.

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In 1779, Jefferson appointed George Wythe as Chair of Law and Police at the College of William and Mary. As the first law professor in the United States, and even earlier with apprentices, Wythe trained a generation of lawyers, including Jefferson, James Monroe, Henry Clay, St. George Tucker, John Marshall, and Bushrod Washington. The printed text here lists Thomas Jefferson as governor of Virginia, but his name is struck and Harrison’s penned in.


WE the President and Professors of William & Mary College do hereby certify… that we have examined Samuel Hanway Gentleman, and find him able to execute the Office and fulfil the Duties of a Surveyor; and we nominate him to be Surveyor for the County of Monongalia Co

In Witness whereof we have hereunto set our Hands and caused the Seal of the said College to be affixed this eighth Day of April in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and 83.

                                                            J. Madison Pr / G. Wythe / Robert Andrews / Chs Belleni

THE within named Samuel Hanway is hereby required to give Bond before the Court of the said County, with two sufficient Sureties, in the Sum of One thousand Pounds, payable to the Governour and his Successours, for the faithful Execution of his Office.

                                                            with Advice of Council. / Benj Harrison

THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA ... our Governour being duly certified of your Ability and good Character, hath constituted you the said Samuel Hanway Surveyor for the County of Monongalia … and to take for so doing the Fees allowed by Law: SAVING AND RESERVING to the President and Professors of the College of William & Mary one sixth part of the legal Fees which shall be received by you.... WITNESS THOMAS JEFFERSON Benjamin Harrison, Esquire, our said Governour at Richmond the third Day of June in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and eighty three.                    Benj Harrison

N.B. This commission is to be nul & void provided the present Surveyor, who is supposed to be killed by the Indians, shall be alive to return. The nullity to commence from the return of Mr [John] Madison                                                        Benj Harrison

Historical Background

The first surveyor of Monongalia County was John Madison Jr., a cousin of future President James Madison and a brother of the college president and signer of this document. Reports differ, but he may have been ambushed and killed in 1783, or lived for perhaps six months after this commission. In any case, he was succeeded by Samuel Hanway.

In 1787, the Virginia General Assembly divested the College of William and Mary of all its surveyor’s fees in Kentucky and part of western Virginia, transferring them to the new Transylvania College. After the American Revolution, the College granted fewer licenses like this one and ceased the practice entirely around 1810.

Benjamin Harrison V (1726-1791) was born in Virginia. In 1745, his father’s death by lightning forced him to leave the College of William and Mary to take charge of extensive land and slave holdings along the James River. He represented Charles City County in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1766 to 1776, and was selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774. Selected again for the Second Continental Congress in 1775, as chairman of the Committee of the Whole, he presided over discussions of the Declaration of Independence, which he signed, along with the other delegates, in August of 1776. Harrison returned to the Burgesses from 1777 to 1781 and 1785-1790. He was Speaker of the House from 1778 to 1781, and the fifth governor of Virginia, from 1781 to 1784. In 1787, he participated in the Virginia Ratifying Convention for the Federal Constitution, which he initially opposed because of the absence of a bill of rights. He was the ancestor of two U.S. Presidents—son William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) and great grandson Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901).

George Wythe (1726-1806) was born at his family’s Virginia plantation and studied law with his uncle, gaining admission to the bar in 1746 in Williamsburg. He was first elected to the House of Burgesses in 1754 and served for various terms through the 1760s, gaining a reputation for his radical opposition to the Stamp Act. In 1775, he was elected to replace George Washington (who had left to take command of the Continental Army) in the Second Continental Congress. He signed the Declaration of Independence and worked with George Mason to design the Seal of Virginia. In 1787, Wythe was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, but left to attend to his dying wife. In 1788, he played a pivotal role in Virginia’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His teaching career began in 1761 with his appointment to the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary. Wythe held the College’s Chair of Law and Police until his resignation in 1789.

James Madison (1749-1812), a cousin of U.S. President James Madison Jr., was born in Virginia and graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1771. He read law with George Wythe and gained admission to the bar but did not practice law. He taught philosophy and mathematics as the College from 1773 to 1775, then went to England to be ordained as a priest in the Church of England. A supporter of the patriot cause, Reverend Madison returned, becoming president of the College of William and Mary in 1777. He presided over the first convention of the Diocese of Virginia of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America in 1785. In 1790, he became a bishop in Canterbury, England. He served as president of the college for thirty-five years, until his death.

Robert Andrews (1748-1804) served as Professor of Moral Philosophy at the College from 1777 to 1789, offering the first collegiate course in the fine arts in the new country. From 1790 to 1798, he represented Williamsburg in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Charles Bellini (ca. 1735-1804) came from Tuscany to Virginia in 1774. In 1778, he was appointed “Clerk of Foreign Correspondence” for the state, and a professor of modern languages at the College of William and Mary, where he taught French and Italian from 1779 to 1803.

Samuel Hanway (1743-1834) was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and moved to Charles City County, Virginia in 1768. He was later a merchant in Petersburg. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, he raised and led a group of Amelia County minutemen and then served for several months as a captain of state marines before resigning his commission in December 1776. In 1783, he moved to Monongalia County in northwestern Virginia (now northern West Virginia), becoming the county’s surveyor by virtue of this appointment. George Washington sought Hanway’s advice when he was touring his western property in September 1784.

Thomas Jefferson and the College of William and Mary

Jefferson enrolled in March 1760, and graduated in 1762. In 1772, Virginia’s royal governor asked Jefferson to design an addition to the college building. His plan for a quadrangle with an interior arcade around an open courtyard would have doubled the two existing wings and added a new wing. Construction began in 1774 but was halted by the Revolutionary War and never resumed. Later, Jefferson’s initial attempts in the House of Delegates to reform the College’s chaotic management failed. When he became Governor of Virginia and a member of the College’s Board of Visitors in 1779, the Board followed his earlier recommendations to abolish the grammar school and divinity school, and to create new professorships in modern languages, anatomy and medicine, and law and government. The curriculum also incorporated natural history and the fine arts. In 1782, the College conferred on Jefferson the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law.

Ex. Paul Richards Autographs.


Very good. Intersecting folds, scattered staining, and a bit of paper loss to edges.