American independence… mapped by a British naval officer in 1775!

"by the Author of American Independence" [i.e., John Cartwright], BRITISH AMERICA, Bounded and Divided as proposed by the Author of AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE. , [London,] 1775.
Engraving on laid paper, 7 ½"h h x 9 ½"w plus margins, uncolored

A scarce and most interesting little map of the future United States, possibly the first published proposal for dividing the trans-Appalachian territory into new colonies.

The map depicts Great Britain’s American colonies east of the Mississippi River, based on the geography first developed in Mitchell’s 1755 map of North America. This map is distinguished however by a vast arc of proposed new states, from “Chactawria” in the south to “Tadousacaia” along the lower St. Lawrence River, with the western extent of many existing colonies been sharply reduced. For example Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia, which on Mitchell’s map extend indefinitely beyond the Mississippi, are here bounded to the west by a line running south from the juncture of the Great Miami and Ohio Rivers.

The map’s title states that it is “by the Author of American Independence.” This is of course not Thomas Jefferson-the map is after all dated 1775!-but rather John Cartwright (1740-1824), an English naval officer and political reformer. He included the map in the revised 1775 edition of his American Independence the Interest and Glory of Great Britain, which argued “that by granting the Colonists an unrestrained civil Freedom and Legislative Independence, we may most effectually secure their future Commercial Dependence upon, and consequently shall best promote the Interest and support the Glory, of Great-Britain” (title). Cartwright was not so visionary as to intend a union of the British American colonies, but rather that each colony be granted independence within a British-led “confederacy.”

As shown on this map, he went so far as to recommend boundaries for 19 new states, each designed so that

“none should be too large or too small, all having an ample surface and an extensive maritime frontier, and being thereby every way calculated for being hereafter joined with the rest of the free and independent states in the grand British confederacy.” (pp. 47-48)

The map prefigures later efforts by the Continental Congress to organize the Trans-Appalachian country and prepare it for settlement. The first such was the Land Ordinance of 1784, which among other things dictated the future division of the region north and west of the Ohio River into ten states. Jefferson, who helped write the Ordinance, proposed that they be named Illinoia, Michigania, Saratoga, Washingon, Chersonesus, Sylvania, Assenisipia, Metropotamia, Polypotamia, and Pelisipia.

Volume described in Howes, U.S.-Iana, #C-206 and Sabin, Dictionary of Books Relating to America, #11154. Map not in Phillips or Rumsey, and Antique Map Price Record lists no examples having appeared on the market, though the volume does turn up for sale every few years.


Some wrinkling in margins and fraying at edges, but very good or better