King George’s and England’s philosophy of land ownership originated with William the Conqueror. In 1086 William and his Norman invaders invented the belief that all lands belong originally to the King, and that belief had been handed down from monarch to monarch. In 1763, since America was already occupied, George III had no grounds for claiming power over the disposal of its land. The area west of the Appalachians, the Ohio River Valley, was French Territory in the 1600s and known as New France.
In those days the nations of Europe, after each war, tossed foreign lands back and forth across the bargaining table as though they were cookies. England acquired the French Territory in February 1763 at the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Seven Years’ War, or, as it was called in America, the French and Indian War. Only a democratically elected legislature had power over the land, Jefferson concluded and, in a phrase that would have been music to any land squatter’s ears, wrote that if the legislature failed to act, …each individual of society may appropriate to himself such lands as he finds vacant, and occupancy will give him title. (Linklater 2002, 58) When Jefferson returned to the Virginia legislature after independence was declared, he was given the opportunity to put some of his land ownership theories into practice. He introduced a bill in the Virginia Legislature that would give 75 acres to any Virginian who did not already have land and a “headright” (per person) grant of 50 acres to every landless immigrant who arrived in the state from overseas. To complete the policy, he planned to lay off every county into “hundreds” or townships, 5 or 6 miles square, in the center of each was to be a school (Liniklater 2002, 73).