Mason-Dixon Line

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The Mason–Dixon Line (or Mason and Dixon's Line) was surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in the resolution of a border dispute between British colonies in Colonial America. It forms a demarcation line among four U.S. states, forming part of the borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia (then part of Virginia). In popular usage, especially since the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (apparently the first official use of the term "Mason's and Dixon's Line"), the Mason–Dixon Line symbolizes a cultural boundary between the Northeastern United States and the Southern United States (Dixie).

Contents

Background

Maryland's charter granted the land north of the entire length of the Potomac River up to the 40th parallel. A problem arose when Charles II granted a charter for Pennsylvania. The grant defined Pennsylvania's southern border as identical to Maryland's northern border, the 40th parallel. But the terms of the grant clearly indicate that Charles II and William Penn assumed the 40th parallel would intersect the Twelve-Mile Circle around New Castle, Delaware when in fact it falls north of Philadelphia, the site of which Penn had already selected for his colony's capital city. Negotiations ensued after the problem was discovered in 1681. A compromise proposed by Charles II in 1682, which might have resolved the issue, was undermined by Penn receiving the additional grant of the 'Three Lower Counties' along Delaware Bay, which later became the Delaware Colony, a satellite of Pennsylvania. These lands had been part of Maryland's original grant.[1]

In 1732 the proprietary governor of Maryland, Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore, signed a provisional agreement with William Penn's sons, which drew a line somewhere in between and renounced the Calvert claim to Delaware. But later, Lord Baltimore claimed that the document he had signed did not contain the terms he had agreed to, and refused to put the agreement into effect. Beginning in the mid-1730s, violence erupted between settlers claiming various loyalties to Maryland and Pennsylvania. The border conflict would be known as Cresap's War.

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