Guide to the Samuel Wharton Manuscript [ca. 1770-1772] MG 115


Descriptive Summary
Biographical Note
Scope and Content Note
Access Points
Related Material
Administrative Information

Container List

Guide to the Samuel Wharton Manuscript
[ca. 1770-1772]
MG 115
The New Jersey Historical Society
52 Park Place
Newark, New Jersey 07102
Contact: NJHS Library
(973) 596-8500 x249
© 2004 All rights reserved.
The New Jersey Historical Society, Publisher
Inventory prepared by Stephen Yautz as part of the “Farm to City” project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Finding aid encoded by Danielle Kovacs. February 2004. Production of the EAD 2002 version of this finding aid was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Finding aid written in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Samuel Wharton
Title: Samuel Wharton Manuscript
Dates: [ca. 1770-1772]
Abstract: This collection contains a manuscript volume of various notes and memoranda on Native Americans’ rights to property and titles in colonial North America compiled by Samuel Wharton in the years 1770 through 1775.
Quantity: 3 items
Collection Number: MG 115

Biographical Note

Samuel Wharton was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 3, 1732, the son of Joseph Wharton, a successful merchant. Wharton followed in his father’s footsteps and became a prosperous merchant in his own right, and was one of the founding partners of Baynton and Wharton. In 1763, they added a partner, George Morgan, thus changing the name of the firm to Baynton, Wharton and Morgan. Amongst other financial ventures, the firm speculated in trade west of the Alleghenies, most notably with the Indians living in the region.

However, with the occurrence of Pontiac’s uprising in 1763, Wharton and his partners suffered financial losses amounting to 86,000 pounds in New York currency. To compensate for this loss, the Six Nations and the traders signed a treaty on May 3, 1768 at Fort Stanwix, granting the traders title to a large tract of land, encompassing one quarter of the current state of West Virginia. In order to validate the claim under English law, Wharton was sent to London by his partners, who now also included Thomas Walpole and Benjamin Franklin, to appear before the Board of Trade. Lord Hillsborough, the President of the board recommended the rejection of their claim outright. One of Wharton’s partners, Benjamin Franklin, produced a pamphlet to counter Lord Hillsborough’s rejection of the claim. The pamphlet was presented to the Lords of the Committee of Council on July 1, 1772. However, it was Wharton’s arguments that swayed the Committee into overturning all of Lord Hillsborough’s recommendations, and the King in Council approved their claim, otherwise known as the Walpole Grant, on August 14, 1772

With the onset of the American Revolution, the Walpole Grant enterprise collapsed. While in France in 1779, Wharton met with Franklin to discuss the possibility of obtaining approval of the same claim by the Continental Congress, thus reviving the venture. Nevertheless, these plans never came to fruition.

Wharton returned to America later that year, and served as a delegate from Delaware to the Continental Congress from 1782 to 1783. He was justice of the peace in Southwark, Pennsylvania from 1784 to 1786. He then went on to become judge of the court of common pleas from 1790 to 1791.

He married Sarah Lewis in 1755, with whom he had six children. Wharton died at his country home outside Philadelphia in 1800.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection contains a manuscript volume of various notes and memoranda on Native Americans’ rights to property and titles in colonial North America. Compiled by Samuel Wharton in the years 1770 through 1775, the volume contains 144 pages of citations, mostly from Grotius, Douglass, and Smith’s History of New Jersey, with the purpose of providing English legal interpretation and precedents on the proper transfer of title of tracts of property in North America. Ultimately, these notes formed the basis of Wharton’s argument before the Lords of the Committee of Council to grant the parcel of land to Wharton and his partners what came to be known as the Walpole Grant. Of note is one quotation attributed to Douglass in reference to Europeans’ claims to property in North America, in which it is stated that “the adventuring European Powers, could only give to some of their particular Subjects, an exclusive grant of negotiating, and purchasing from the natural Proprietors, the native Indians, and thereupon, a power of Jurisdiction.”

Also included in this manuscript are a number of references to land purchases made by the Proprietors of West Jersey from the Native Americans inhabiting those lands in question. In almost all instances, the notes in this manuscript emphasize the fact that the English legally obtained title to the lands by negotiating with the Native Americans.

Two dried flowers originally pressed in the manuscript volume complete the collection.

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Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied without permission from library staff.

Use Restrictions

Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.

The New Jersey Historical Society complies with the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code), which governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials.

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Access Points

The entries below represent persons, organizations, topics, forms, and occupations documented in this collection.
Subject Names:
Brearly, David, 1745-1790.
Wharton, Samuel, 1732-1800.
Subject Topics:
Possession (Law)–Great Britain–History–Sources.
Possession (Law)–United States–History–Sources.
Possessory interests in land.
Walpole grant.
Subject Places:
London–England–History–18th century.
Document Types:
Subject Occupations

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Related Material

For related collections on Samuel Wharton and his partners at other institutions, see:

Manuscript Group 708B, Baynton and Wharton Letterbook, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Manuscript Group 1163, George Morgan Letterbook, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

For related collections on other Philadelphia merchants at The New Jersey Historical Society, see:

Manuscript Group 1264, James Emery Brooks Papers

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Administrative Information

Custodial History

This volume of notes was written by Samuel Wharton in London between the years 1770 and 1772; it eventually came into the hands of David Brearley, the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court in the late 1770s. Upon his death, the volume was sold at vendue to Robert Boggs on November 12, 1790. It was later given to his grandson, John Lawrence Boggs, who donated the manuscript to The New Jersey Historical Society on October 26, 1910.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: Manuscript Group 115, Samuel Wharton Collection, The New Jersey Historical Society.

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Malone, Dumas, ed. Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936.

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Container List

Box Folder Title Date
1 1 Manuscript: “Minutes and Memoranda in Respect to Indian Titles in North America” [ca. 1770-1772]
1 2 Dried flowers (2) undated

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