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preemptive-right

Nathaniel Gorham

Nathaniel Gorham (May 27, 1738 – June 11, 1796) was the eighth President of the United States in Congress assembled, under the Articles of Confederation. He served from June 1786 to November 13, 1786. He was preceded in office by John Hancock and succeeded by Arthur St. Clair.

Gorham was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He took part in public affairs at the beginning of the American Revolution, was a member of the Massachusetts General Court (Legislature) from 1771 until 1775, a delegate to the Provincial congress from 1774 until 1775, and a member of the Board of War from 1778 until its dissolution in 1781. In 1779 he served in the State constitutional convention. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1782 until 1783, and also from 1785 until 1787. Gorham also served a term as judge of the Middlesex County, Massachusetts Court of Common Pleas.

For several months in 1787, Gorham served as one of the Massachusetts delegates to the United States Constitutional Convention. Gorham frequently served as Chairman of the Convention's Committee of the Whole, meaning that he (rather than the President of the Convention, George Washington) presided over convention sessions during much of the drafting process. After the convention, he worked hard to see that the Constitution was approved in his home state.

In connection with Oliver Phelps, he purchased from the state of Massachusetts in 1788 pre-emption rights to an immense tract of land in western New York State which straddled the Genesee River, all for the sum of $1,000,000 (the Phelps and Gorham Purchase). The land in question had been previously ceded to Massachusetts from the state of New York under the 1786 Treaty of Hartford. The pre-emption right gave them the first or preemptive right to obtain clear title to this land from the Indians. They soon extinguished the Indian title to the portion of the land east of the Genesee River, as well as a 185,000 acre (749 km²) tract west of the Genesee The Mill Yard Tract), surveyed all of it, laid out townships, and sold large parts to speculators and settlers. In 1790, after they defaulted in payment, they sold nearly all of their unsold lands east of the Genesee to Robert Morris, who eventually resold those lands to The Pulteney Association. Phelps and Gorham were unable to fulfill their contract in full to Massachusetts, so in 1790, they surrendered back to Massachusetts that portion of the lands which remained under the Indian title, namely, the land west of the Genesee. It also was eventually acquired by Robert Morris, who resold most of it to The Holland Land Company. Morris did keep 500,000 acres (2,000 km²) for himself, and that land became known as The Morris Reserve.

Gorham died in Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1796.

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