6/6/09 - the american revolution

In today's excerpt - the economic underpinnings of the America Revolution. Alongside the irritant of taxation without representation, (though the tax burdens of colonists were far below those of Englanders) the restrictions of a mercantile economy and the self-confidence that grew from partial self-governance, many Americans stood to gain financially from separation from England. Especially after the point of no return had been passed. In the minor example below, aspiring claimants to the rich new lands of Kentucky and the other lands of the Ohio Valley stood to benefit financially if America's Revolution was successful:

"Several of the American colonies (notably Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and North Carolina but also Connecticut) had conflicting claims to land in the Ohio Valley. Americans from different colonies, in the years since 1763, had staked claims to lands in Kentucky and elsewhere in the Ohio Valley (including lands north of the Ohio River that the British Parliament in October 1774, in the Quebec Act, had proclaimed were part of Quebec). These settlers and absentee claimants alike sought to preserve their land interests during the Revolution. Americans of widely different backgrounds—former officers in the French and Indian War such as George Washington; grantees of the Transylvania Company; settlers with claims under Virginia land law based on preemption or improvements—had claims that involved much of the best land in Kentucky. They shared a strong common interest in keeping the land they had claimed. With few exceptions victory by the British in the Revolutionary War would have hurt that interest.

"In the case of officers and claimants under officers' warrants, the British had officially interpreted the 1763 proclamation to permit trans-Appalachian land grants only to British regular officers, not to colonial militia officers such as Washington. Land claimants under Virginia officers' warrants had to be concerned about whether the Crown would honor warrants that had been issued in contravention of the 1763 proclamation and by a colony that had rebelled against Britain. Similar issues threatened the land claims of settlers such as those at Harrodsburg who based their land claims on preemption or on improvements to claimed lands, under provisions of Virginia's land acts.

"Virginia's governor Lord Dunmore had not won the hearts of Kentucky settlers by issuing a proclamation in March 1775, under directions from the British Ministry of Trade, that all land in Kentucky was to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, rather than being sold at set low prices. As John Floyd wrote to William Preston in April 1775: 'The people in general seem not to approve the Governor's instructions with regard to settling the lands' because the settlers had little money and did not want to pay top dollar but preferred to exercise settlement rights and preemption privileges and to pay a fixed low price intended to encourage settlement. After hearing from Lord Dunmore of the 1775 proclamation, Preston, knowing how unpopular it was, sought guidance from the increasingly anti-British Virginia Convention, which advised the surveyors 'to pay no regard to the Proclamation.' Through [Daniel] Boone, Preston directed Floyd and the other Fincastle surveyors not to stretch a chain to survey any land under Dunmore's proclamation.

"Even the Transylvania Company, for all its ambivalence about the Revolution (coupling professed loyalty to the British sovereign with praise of the patriots' pursuit of liberty), came to have economic reasons to back the rebels. By the end of 1776 the company's proprietors had seen their grand hopes of becoming 'lords of the soil' ended by Virginia's formation of Kentucky as a county of Virginia. Thereafter, the proprietors' only hope was to gain substantial compensatory acreage from Virginia and North Carolina. That hope was more likely to be realized if the Revolution succeeded."


Meredith Mason Brown


Frontiersman: Daniel Boone and the Making of America


Louisiana State University Press


Copyright 2008 by LSU Press


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