12 November 2010

How some American "founding fathers" became wealthy

“Land speculation was the main investment scheme of the age. It had been carried out with great appetite in colonial America, where large grants of land, often hundreds of thousand of acres, could be obtained from the Crown or from the colonial governments for a pittance. In 1748, for example, a group of influential Virginians formed the Ohio Company and secured half a million western acres; the following year, the Loyal Company, also composed of leading Virginians, acquired 800,000 acres. With a minimal investment, speculators could turn an exorbitant profit reselling land parcels to settlers. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, and other founding fathers were all land speculators on a grand scale.” (p. 27)
-- from Jay Feldman, When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes. Free Press, New York, 2005.


  1. No surprise here. It's a rather well known cause of the War for American Independence that the frictions caused by the Quebec Acts and the desire by the Colonials to speculate in Western Territories. The Seven Years/French And Indian War began with the Braddock expedition and George Washington and spilled over to Europe. There is far more proof that thw War for American Independence was based upon Economic reasons than mere taxes.

  2. I finished reading Chernow's "Washington: A Life" last month and I was struck by when folks like Washington, Madison, Adams, et al. determined that the nation's capitol would be located in what is Washington, DC---they immediately purchased tracts of land there before the decision was announced to the public.

    BTW, Washington became wealthy the old-fashioned way--he married into it. While Washington was certainly a very active land speculator, he always lived far beyond his means and was perpetually in a cash flow crunch.


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