george-washington - founding father and determined land speculator (20

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The story of George Washington's hunger for land and the personal wealth derived from land speculation

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George Washington: Founding Father and Determined Land Speculator Written by Edward J. Dodson, M.L.A. March 2013

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“It was a great feudal leap backward in English America – except for the owners of the land, who could look forward to raising the rents and, each year, charging higher base rents to new leaseholders.”

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“We passed over much good land since we left Venango and through several extensive and very rich meadows, one of which was near four miles in length and considerably wide.”

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Willard Stern Randall

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“[S]harp land dealings in recent years had forced most of the native Shawnees and Delawares off their lands and driven them west to the Ohio Valley, where they now fought beside the French. [Washington] was coming to believe … that the underlying problem of defending against the French and Indians was the method of settlement. ...”

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“Newly arrived immigrants in search of cheap land scattered as far as they could form existing settlements. They assured their isolation by staking out as much land as they possibly could. This fact along made them easy prey for Indian raiding parties.”

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Martha Dandridge Custis Washington

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“If he was at all restless, the form it took was in a determined quest to gain vast tracts of western land that he considered his both by right of discovery as a surveyor and right of conquest as the Virginian who had held on to the frontier backcountry through years of bloody battles and raids. Here his appetite was unquenchable.”

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“See what fortunes were made by the first takers up of those lands. Nay, how the greatest estates we have in this colony were made. Was it not by taking up and purchasing at very low rates the rich back lands which were thought nothing of in those days but are now the most valuable lands we possess? Undoubtedly it was.”

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“They have … invaded most of the colonies east of the Alleghenies, murdering multitudes of his Majesty’s subjects and destroying the country before them with fire and sword. This insult now puts it in the power of the Crown consistent with justice to pursue the political plans of getting that country settled as quickly as possible.”

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“Any considerable delay in the prosecution of our plan would amount to an absolute defeat of the grant inasmuch as immigrants are daily sealing the choice spots of land and waiting for an opportunity of soliciting a legal title under the advantages of possession and improvement – two powerful pleas in an infant country.”

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“It is a fact well known, and every age evinces it, that no country ever was or ever will be settled without some indulgences. What inducements do men have to explore uninhabited wilds but the prospect of getting good lands? Would any man waste his time, expose his fortune, nay his life in such a search if he was to share the good and the bad with those who come after him? Surely not.”

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“… the House of Commons had passed … a new frame of government for Quebec Province that extended its borders south all the way to the Ohio River. …All the years of expense and defense of the frontier could well be swept away as the vast Great Lakes and Ohio Valley region … became part of a new and enlarged British government-controlled Quebec that had few remnants of the rights of freeborn Englishmen like Washington …”

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“… wiping out all the land grants not only of Washington but of the Franklins and other land-hungry speculators from Massachusetts and South Carolina.”

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“The only certain way of preventing Indian ravages is to carry the war vigorously into their own country.”

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“The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements.”

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“Apart from the fact that it was immoral, unethical and actually criminal, this plan placed before the Congress by George Washington was so logical and well laid out that it was immediately accepted practically without opposition and at once put into action. …Without even realizing it had occurred, the fate of all Indians in the country was sealed. They had lost virtually everything.”

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“Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire form the greater theater of action and, bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission and take my leave of all the employments of public office.”

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“The chronic clashing between white settlers and Indians had made him think deeply on the subject, and he urged Congress to adopt just and humane policies for dealing with the natives. He had gone far in changing his thinking since his years on the Virginia frontier when he only considered Indians as barriers to progress.”