ROBERT MORRIS - STOCK CERTIFICATE SIGNED 03/10/1795 CO-SIGNED BY: JAMES MARSHALL - HFSID 30119
Sale Price $1,530.00
ROBERT MORRIS and JAMES MARSHALL
Stock certificate signed by Robert Morris and James Marshall sign a stock certificate for 50 shares.
Partly Printed Stock Certificate signed: "Robt Morris" as President and "James Marshall" as Secretary of the North American Land Company, 1p, 12½x9½. Philadelphia, 1795 February 20. Certificate No. 154 certifying "that Sylvanus Bourine is entitled to fifty shares in the entire Property of the NORTH AMERICAN LAND COMPANY: the dividend whereof shall not be less that Six Dollars on each Share Annually...." The fifty shares represented by this certificate were numbered 1,151-1,200. In February 1795, the month this certificate was issued, Robert Morris (who had completed his term as U.S. Senator in March 1795), John Nicholson and James Greenleaf had organized the North American Land Company to develop and sell six million acres of land (valued at 50 cents per acre) in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Kentucky. To pay taxes on the land and to finance land development, the partners offered 30,000 shares at $100.00 per share; they guaranteed that investors would receive at least a six-percent annual dividend. Morris also wanted to use the income derived from the sale of this stick to pay his creditors, including those from whom he had bought much of the Company's land. Unfortunately for Morris, the company stock sold slowly and western land values did not increase as predicted. U.S. federal land legislation, including the Land Act of 1796, which was passed one year after this stock was issued, encouraged land speculation rather than settlement. The Act offered parcels of land that were too large for family settlement and demanded high prices (without adequate credit provisions) that were not affordable for individual settlers. Later in the year this certificate was issued British investors were prevented from buying shares in the Company due to a financial crisis in Great Britain (1795-1796). Those Europeans who could afford to purchase American land directly preferred to buy settled rather than unsettled land. Therefore, Morris became land rich and money poor; he could not sell his land or his Company stock, and he was unable to borrow money. The North American Land Company collapsed, plunging Morris into bankruptcy. In February 1798, Morris was placed in Prune Street Debtors' Prison, where he remained until August 1801. Morris was released due to the enactment of the first Federal Bankruptcy Law (April 4, 1800, exactly five years after he signed this document), which allowed the assets of indebted merchants and brokers to be seized and sold in order to pay the bankrupt's debts. Philadelphia merchant ROBERT MORRIS (1734-1806), who had been a delegate to the Continental Congress (1775-1778) and a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, became Superintendent of Finance (1781-1784) during the American Revolution (1775-1783). Instrumental in securing the funds necessary to finance the War, in 1782, Morris also founded the Bank of North America, the first private commercial bank in the U.S. He served as a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania from 1789-1795. JAMES MARSHALL (1764-1848), Morris' son-in-law, was the brother of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, who was also a land speculator. James, along with William Temple Franklin, a grandson of Benjamin Franklin, was a European-based selling agent for the North American Land Company. Lightly creased with folds, touching the "or" of Morris' signature. Chemical reaction of ink to paper also at Morris' signature, 1½-inch diameter stain from seal at the "James" of Marshall's signature. Chipped at edges, upper right blank corner torn away, paper loss at upper left edge. Irregularly cut at left edge. Overall, fine condition for a document of its age.
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