North American Land Company Stock Certificate
Signed by Robert Morris & James Marshall
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Robert Morris and James Marshall sell a share of their land trust to the company of Bird, Savage, and Bird. Morris was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. ROBERT MORRIS & JAMES MARSHALL.
Document Signed, Stock Certificate for One Share of the North American Land Company. Philadelphia, Pa., March 16, 1795. 1 p., 12½ x 9¾ in.
North American Land Company holdings were scattered across 4,000,000 acres from Georgia to New York. The company failed in 1798 because revenues did not come in quickly enough to meet loan deadlines, causing Morris to end up in debtor’s prison from 1798-1801.
Robert Morris (1734-1806), signer of the Declaration of Independence, merchant and land speculator, is best known for his role as financier for the Continental Congress. With the national government virtually bankrupt, Morris risked his own personal fortune by purchasing supplies for the army, pressuring the states for cash contributions and securing a major French loan to finance the Bank of North America. He spent his remaining years in various public positions, including senator of Pennsylvania. Morris speculated extensively in Western land after the war, forming the North American Land Co. with James Greenleaf and Jonathan Nicholson. Soon after, however, the land market collapsed and Morris was ruined. The final blow came in 1798, when a minor creditor’s claim sent him to the Philadelphia debtor’s prison. It has often been said that while George Washington was president, he felt he could not pardon his long-time friend, but visited Morris in debtor’s prison as a show of support. That story is only half true. Morris didn’t enter debtor’s prison until 1798, two years after Washington’s presidency, so Washington couldn’t have pardoned him, but he did visit Morris in prison, where the latter remained for three years until his wife was able to bail him out.