The Application System Of 1765

This information comes from the book, View Of The Land Laws Of Pennsylvania, compiled by Thomas Sergeant, Esq in 1838.

  On 15 June, 1765 the Proprietaries of the Colony of Pennsylvania published an advertisement in the public press which outlined a new system that would be followed in the distribution of land warrants. That system, known as the Application System stated:

  1. Every person desirous to settle vacant land should apply to the secretary of the land office, who, instead of granting a warrant, should enter in a book the name of such person, the date of his application, and the description or location of his land.

  2. No application to be for more than three hundred acres to any one person, without special order: and, every evening, the secretary to send to the surveyor-general a true copy of all applications of that day, regularly numbered in the order applied for.

  3. The surveyor-general then to send transcripts to his deputy, according to the district they fell in, with their dates of entry, and order to survey.

  4. The deputy, within six months, to survey, and return into the surveyor-general's office - provided copies were delivered in a reasonable time, and the applicant, or some one for him, attended the deputy to show the land, at the time appointed. The surveyor-general was to frame and send instructions, with penalty of removal in case of the deputy's neglect. If no survey, by neglect of the party, or other good cause, the deputy to certify the cause within the time limited.

  5. The applicant, within six months after the date of return of survey, to pay the receiver-general in full for the lands on the new terms, 5 sterling for one hundred acres, with interest, from the application, and one penny sterling per acre quit-rent. Thereupon a warrant of acceptance to issue, directing the surveyor-general to accept, and make return of survey into the secretary's office, and patent to issue, unless cause shown. In case of neglect to show land, or pay as directed, the proprietaries declare themselves at liberty to grant the land to others.

  6. Persons claiming by settlement or improvement, were required to enter their applications, and bring certificates from neighboring magistrates (which by subsequent advertisement, was extended to other satisfactory proof) of the nature of the improvements, and the time they began (in order to compute interest and quit-rents), under pain, if not done in six months, of being granted to others.

  7. The office to open on the 5th August for lands on the east side of the Susquehanna, and on the west, when the office was ready.

  8. Former purchasers were called on to pay, and take out patents.

  On 01 August, 1765 a regulation was added to the Application System which stated that improvements made prior to the most recent purchase from the Indians woud be excluded. Emphasis was placed on the nature of the "improvement". The secretary was directed to give warrants to persons who had built and resided upon the land they applied for, thereby proving that they had improved the land. Another regulation, added on 10 August, 1765, ordered that when a piece of land applied for joined a settled plantation, the secretary should grant the warrant, but the interest and quit-rent applied would be prorated to the time of the settlement of the original plantation. These regulations were intended to prevent the settlers from cheating the proprietaries out of the interest on the separate tracts of land.

  The restriction of the warrant to no more than three hundred acres was an attempt to prevent any one person from laying claim to a substantially sized tract. But that restriction was easily circumvented by crafty land speculators, including those who speculated on Mother Bedford lands, such as Dr. William Smith, Israel Pemberton, and Charles Coxe. These individuals simply had their relatives apply for three hundred acre tracts. The real applicant would endorse the warrant with his own name, so that a legal transaction could be effected later on. It was not uncommon for a land warrant to be applied for by a child, whether it be a son or a daughter.

  The Application System effectively ceased in September, 1769 and warrants were afterwards issued. It became the practice that the whole purchase-money was to be paid upon the issuance of the warrant.