Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 | Next Page
Expansion of the Empire
Letter of Rep. George Clymer to Benjamin Rush
Rep. George Clymer of Pennsylvania to Benjamin Rush (Courtesy of Richard H. Kohn, George Curtis, and Kenneth R. Bowling)

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Portrait of George Clymer
Portrait of George Clymer by Charles W. Peale (Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

The strongest statement against immediate settlement of the West came from Rep. George Clymer of Philadelphia who was disturbed by the implications of the land office that Congress considered establishing in 1789. He did not want Americans to scatter themselves throughout the wilderness; he believed they should move westward in a gradually "extending circle" of civilization. Here he proposes to a fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence that they join forces to write a pamphlet discouraging emigration to the West aimed at the very people most likely to move, the barely literate. Clymer was not alone in his concerns. When the United States found itself immersed in an unsuccessful war against Northwest Territory Indians in 1791, Rep. Nicholas Gilman of New Hampshire reflected, "It is perhaps a misfortune that we have any connexion with that Country." (to Josiah Bartlett, Feb. 6, 1791, Dartmouth College Library)

Full text transcript of Rep. Clymer's letter.

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