Philadelphia: Printed by R. Aitken and Son, Market Street, 1795. 25, [1 blank] pp, stitched into contemporary [or a bit later] marbled wrappers [rubberstamp of Ten Mile Square Club of Washington DC on blank inner rear wrapper]. Light spotting, Good+.
This is the Prospectus for the North American Land Company, the brainchild of Founding Father Robert Morris, which he established in 1795. The Company, "at a great expence of money and time, with much industry," had acquired "six millions of acres" of prime lands in "Pennsylvania, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina, Georgia and Kentucky." The Financier of the American Revolution, Morris joined with John Nicholson of Philadelphia and James Greenleaf of New York [formerly, for six weeks, American Consul to Amsterdam] as the original Subscribers to the Company, whose twenty-eight Articles of Agreement are printed here. The Company had 30,000 shares of stock, each share valued at $100.00. This document itemizes, by County within each State, the Company's lands.
"From the beginning, the North American Land Company was plagued by serious financial difficulties. Firstly, the authenticity of many of the titles to the lands were questioned. Secondly, the land company owned more than 2 million acres in the Georgia 'Pine Barrens'. These large tracts of barren wilderness were uninhabited, covered in sandy soil, and consequently difficult to sell to land purchasers and settlers. Furthermore, Morris, a former delegate to the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, sent his son-in-law, James Marshall, to Europe in order to sell shares in the company stock. Due to financial difficulties in Europe and doubts about the value of the North American Land Company's holdings, Marshall was unsuccessful.
"After Greenleaf was unable to secure loans from Dutch investors because of war and political instability in Holland, he used the company's securities to pay off private debts. Although Morris and Nicholson were heavily in debt, they bought out Greenleaf because he had continued to embezzle company funds and to engage in corrupt business practices. Morris and Nicholson soon became bankrupt and the promissory notes they used as payment to Greenleaf for his share of the company defaulted. Greenleaf became bankrupt and in 1797 was sent to Prune Street Prison in Philadelphia. Nicholson and Morris soon joined Greenleaf in the same debtors' prison. Morris was released after serving three and half years, but was left penniless and almost $3 million in debt. Nicholson died in prison, but Greenleaf was released in 1798 after serving less than one year" [description from online Historical Society of Pennsylvania].
Evans 29220. Howes P-412. Sabin 55548. Item #37674